GET LAMP: The Text Adventure Documentary


Uploaded by GoogleTechTalks on 10.03.2011

Transcript:
>>
SCOTT: Okay. How many people here actually worked or make text adventure games or do
stuff with it? One, two, three... >> No, idea.
>> SCOTT: Don's not going to put his hand up but--yes, exactly. Well it's--as the movie
we'll go into, obviously, right there's different eras and that's just the way it works. So
anyway, I'll start the--I'll start the thing soon but before I do it, was there anything
pre--I guess, a pre question somebody had like, "What is this?" I just sit down and
anything that comes in this room, so... >> Where's the lamp?
>> SCOTT: Where's the--well, you'll find--you'll have a lot of fun finding the lamp in this
movie. The--you're saying where's the actual, physical lamp? I just could not do--I was
here for two weeks. I could not get that lamp and everything else into my suitcase. I have
a bunch of lamps that I keep around. You can get them very cheap from a place in Vermont
now, but I couldn't get them cheap when I got them, but anyway, the--I make historical
documentaries and so this is my latest historical documentary. I hope to do more and I'm a little
bit more about the people than I am about the technical stuff. The technical stuff is
in there and they're definitely a geeky movie but I believe that the hardest part to get
is the stories from the people who were alive and what they thought about it and everything
else. So you'll see there's a very humanist view but I'm not allowed to go delve into
a little bit about code, so definitely geeky. So, let's see, I guess--I mean is everything
working? Am I--are people seeing me from the world of Google elsewhere and everything else?
Sure. >> I don't suppose the movie has closed captions?
>> SCOTT: Does the movie have closed captions? I can turn on closed captions.
>> [INDISTINCT] >> SCOTT: Okay. All right. We're going to
do the movie with closed captions. In point of fact, every single feature on the movie
is closed captioned. I'm very big about that. I myself have unbalanced hearing. And so,
put me in a party room and I'd sound really dumb because I can't hear you. So, I was very
big on closed captioning everywhere and I want to work with some people to do a video
description version of this because blind players play a pretty big deal in text adventures.
>> So, Ken has--over here did a lot of the work on the closed captioning that happens
automatically with some YouTubes and he's done good work on that. All right, this will
be recorded for YouTube and on YouTube, if you are a blogger; you give five quick facts
about yourselves. So, I'm going to give you five quick facts about Jason and then I'm
going to let him go. You probably know the first few. Textfiles.com, he's the curator
of an awesome archive of bulletin board culture and if you haven't gone there, look at the
top 100 list, they're a lot of fun. Number two, the BBS: The Documentary, he's the director
of that documentary which was, I don't know, 5 years ago or something like that, long ago?
>> SCOTT: Long ago. >> He's on teams of various archiving projects;
things like grabbing copies of major sites like Geocities before they go offline. His
cat has more than one and a half million followers on Twitter. The cat is named Sockington, you
might have heard and five, he was recently told by a major American weekly magazine that
his title of computer historian is not an actual profession and he had to change his
profession, so go do it. >> SCOTT: Yes, that was People magazine. I
don't--I'm not afraid to say that. Not like I'm going to get into that again for anything
that I want to be. They wanted my cat in it. So, my cat is in People magazine and...
>> [INDISTINCT] >> SCOTT: And then he made the yearbook because
I guess he was one of the top important events of 2010. That is one well-fed cat. Anyway
so--but yes, the reporter came back and said, "The editor really can't take computer historian.
Do you have anything else?" And I was like, "Historian?" And they went, "Okay." So even
though a lot of us want to think that a lot of things are finished, actually there's quite
a bit ways to go. So, as said, my name is Jason Scott. I do a bunch of computer history.
I'm really big into archiving old material and data preservation, digital heritage. I'm
a big loud-mouth; I've said things both pro and con Google over the years but pro and
con everyone else because I have my things. All I want is that somebody in 50 years can
choose to see something that we can see now, when possible. So that's the easy way to put
it. But one of the things I've discovered was, in doing my archiving, was that when
I was really good at getting old things like notes and pieces of paper and lots of photos
and stuff, that doesn't really help you much if the person who wrote this stuff is--has
gotten a way to tell you their story. So I started to do a documentary called the BBS:
The Documentary. That was 205 interviews, it took four years and it came out as a three
DVD set. So it was just--I went from there being no BBS movie to the last BBS movie,
the final one. And so after that, I said, "What else affected my life?" and I thought,
"Let's do text adventures. What could possibly go wrong?" So here we are a few years later
and I have now done a high definition movie about text adventures. And this is a--this
has 75 interviews, so it's a mere pittance compared to the previous one and it goes into
a whole variety of things. Now, to explain what you're seeing here because in some place
it's going to seem a little weird. The movie is optionally interactive, where it goes and
plays you an introduction and then let's you choose which directions you go but then there's
the non-interactive version and that just goes up and steps through the three main parts.
And I think that's a much better idea for this crowd, because you guys are really technically
astute and there's all sorts of interesting things about it--about all the process. So,
again, it's a--it's got historical sides to it, it's got the capitalist side which is
so important to some people and then it's got the other side of like, who are the people
who would play these and who are the people who would make these? And some of them are
in the audience, you know, I guess I'll introduce them at the end or just mention. So, there's
old school in the house is all I'm saying, am I right? Old school is in the house and
just--whatever, I do have copies here if somebody feels like buying them just because I brought
a stack of them. They each come with a coin, a golden silver coin because that's the best
way to be an Indie filmmaker is to make gold coins that come with your DVD. Anyway--so,
again we're going to play this one and we're going to play it with the subtitles on and
I hope you enjoy it. It's called "Get Lamp." Let's put this here. You need up the mic like
this? Let's do that. Okay. Did I do it right? Okay. [INDISTINCT]. And that's the--let's
[INDISTINCT] right here. >> There is a machine that you must operate.
But you have to figure out what machine it is, what its function is, what it does, why
you need to operate it. You have to figure out what that thing is.
>> What is an adventure game and what makes it so interesting for people? It's a--in a
world right now where we're going to graphics a lot, it seems to be basic--based on words.
>> You interact with the computer in words and the computer spits words back out at you.
And, so there are no pictures at all, except for the ones in your head which are the best.
>> Now, these are the kinds of games that, well mostly, I guess kids play with and then
they go through different branching schemes and every point you get a chance to go north,
south, east and west and so forth. So these--are these games getting more sophisticated now?
Who's writing them? Are they being written by authors?
>> They're definitely getting more sophisticated and I wouldn't even say that they're mostly
played by children any more. You can talk to other characters, you can ask fairly complicated
questions like, "Where were you on the night of the murder?"
>> ADAMS: The thing that really interests me about text adventures is that they explore
the power of words in an interactive context. >> GRANADE: You're looking at a story told
through text on a computer. >> MONTFORT: It's virtual reality that exists
in words. >> DOUGLASS: Interactive, digital rhetoric
that describes an experience. >> FORMAN: It really was more like playing
a book than playing a game. >> DESILETS: I say to them, "Here's a form
of literature you may or may not have seen before."
>> GRANADE: Typically what I end up having to do is, I fumble around and talk about it
for a little while and then I say, "Here. Sit down for a second. Let me show you something."
And then demonstrate it to them. >> WEST: For me, this adventure has gone on
for a lifetime. It's working on a problem that's bigger than you are. It's one you can't
solve in five minutes or ten minutes. I started caving in the late '60s and then got involved
in organized caving in the late '70s. I definitely had been caving and surveying caves before
I latched onto the idea that there was this game out there that was so closely related
to the caves and described them in a manner that would appeal to a caver.
>> ROGER BRUCKER: Well, I knew Will before the game existed and I do know that my son,
Tom Brucker spent several weeks down here with Will Crowther and his wife at the time.
They were intensely looking at a cave called Bedquilt Cave, a very confusing part of the
cave. They have something like 10 lineal miles of cave within one square mile of land. Bedquilt
is one of the highest-density of cave passages that you find anywhere in the whole cave system.
>> TOM BRUCKER: We're fascinated with how tightly twisted and three dimensional Bedquilt
Cave turned out to be. And it was, you know, even more tightly twisted than, you know,
it appears to the casual person just passing through it. It's just really fun to discover
in Bedquilt Cave these places where you can squeeze up through something and end up somewhere
else. It's just filled with places like that. >> ROGER BRUCKER: That I know is the origin
of the game Adventure that Will subsequently invented.
>> JERZ: The walls really started tumbling down for me, and I really started learning
a lot more when I started shifting, going into the Cave Research Foundation. Learning
what I learned about it, reading, you know, Brucker and Watson's: The Longest Cave. They
would use their compass readings and their bearings, they would start from a known position
and they would--they would take the distance and bearing and measure from one place to
another. Along the whole process, they would be taking notes about the shape of the tunnels,
the shape and the size, features in the tunnel. They'd be mapping while they were going. So
there was this sort of--I don't call it decorative, but the artistic, atmospheric recording along
with the scientific coding of exactly where something is in relation to something else
and what you need to do to get from one place to the other.
>> WEST: I think if they were able to compare our maps and the game, on one level it would
be completely dissimilar, but on another, there's a certain similarity. The general
directions: east, west, north, south, up, down all hold generally true as you got through
the part that Crowther wrote. >> ROGER BRUCKER: I know others have added
little touches to it now and then, but the genius was his, in working out a diagram of
the passageways in the Bedquilt. >> TOM BRUCKER: I don't think it was really
promoted as a caver's game. Although, I was really proud that Will--he could have made
Adventure go any direction it wanted to, but to sit there and knowing what better way to
take a real cave and have real north, south, east, west, up, down, directions that were
actually based on reality. >> JERZ: But one of his daughters said to
me that, to her, Will Crowther is just her dad and it's surprising to her that he's the
J.D. Salinger of Interactive Fiction. But he's chosen to make it speak for himself.
And he hasn't tried to leverage it or anything. So, I just--you've got to respect somebody
like that. >> WOODS: So I was at Standford, my first
year as a grad student there. One of the other first-year grad students had a job at the
Standford Medical Center. It was John Gilbert. And he came across this program that had somehow
migrated onto the computer there. I managed to get a copy of it from that system onto
the Stanford AI lab machine where I had an account. I began having lots of ideas for
ways to modify it, and make it a--made it a little more cohesive or have just more stuff
to do in it. But in terms of the layout of the cave, the items you could find, the goals
you had, I kept all of that. I didn't realize at the time that this was going to be starting
a new genre. And I sort of realized it was unlike anything I had encountered up to that
point. And so, you know, maybe subconsciously, I--if anybody had asked I would have realized,
you know, this is something new. But still I wouldn't have guessed it was going to catch
on so much. >> ROMERO: I was--it was 1979 and a friend
of mine had just come back from Sierra College, going nuts, saying, "Oh my God, there's games
up at the college and they're free." >> ROBINETT: Everybody was talking about it
for a period there in 1978. It came out of nowhere and it got copied all over the place.
>> SHAW: In our dorm, there was a computer room which had two old DEC line printer terminals.
And they said, "There's this game you've got to try out, it's called Adventure. It's really
great." >> GRIFFITHS: They had all these incredibly
cool LISP machines with big, gorgeous displays and a bunch of people are huddled around that
machine that's got text. >> SHAW: Yes. You'd sit there with a little
300 baud telephone modem and type in a line, you know, "Get lamp." And wait a minute, two
minutes and then ZSHZSHZSH, you know, they would type the thing out, so.
>> LEBLING: Adventure took us over--took the whole lab over, consumed everyone for a while.
>> ROBINETT: The game by Crowther and Woods was a sensation.
>> WELBOURN: I had to sign in as J.Q. Public and the password was jqpublic and everybody
was playing it. >> ROBINETT: And then nobody got any work
done for a week. >> LEBLING: As the legend goes and it's absolutely
true, all productivity ceased for about a week as people attempted to solve it.
>> JERZ: You know, that's something that in the '70s to be able to type commands to a
computer in something that looked like English and to have it respond to you with lines of
text, telling you what happens next, that captivated people.
>> LEBLING: We got down to the point finally where Bruce went in with a binary debugger
to get the last couple of points. >> ADAMS: I was working at the Stromberg-Carlson,
just outside of Orlando and they had a DEC mainframe there. And one of the guys in the
IT department said, "Hey, we got a really neat game on the mainframe that we've been
playing and you might want to take a look at it." And it's--it was Colossal Caves. So
I got permission--or to have--to get onto the game. I would come in every morning before
work for an hour or two and then I would stay for an hour after work so I could play the
game. And I played it for about a week and I was just blown away by it. It was a lot
fun. [PAUSE] This was about the same time that I had gotten my first appliance computer.
To me, appliance computer was one I didn't have to build from a kit, which was kind of
unique. It was a TRS-80 Model 1. This Adventure game was really fun. I've been trying to think
of a good game to write. Adventure seemed, wow, this is perfect. The fellows in the IT
department said, "Well, you want to take a look at the source code to this game?" I said,
"No, I'm not really interested in that. I just like the concept." They said, "Well,
this thing runs on the mainframe. There's no way you're going to get it into a 16K TRS-80
Model 1." And it was Adventureland. This was back in 1978 and that's where it all started.
Adventure International made adventure games. Literally, we were the first--as far as I
know in the world, the first computer gaming company that was selling computer games primarily.
That was it. That was what we were doing. We were selling computer games and we're doing
it to a mass market. >> BLANK: It just came up last night. I was
watching a movie from the early '80s because we thought maybe the kids would enjoy that.
And my wife was telling the girls, you know, what time this was, "It was a long time ago.
It was before we were married. It was when daddy was doing Zork and those things." And
my seven-year old said, "What's Zork?" >> BERLYN: I think there were two products
that sold more computers than anything else. VisiCalc and Zork.
>> KALUZNIACKI: We would go after school to this store and play whatever games were available,
type games in and I remember Zork coming out and playing it on an Apple 2 and we were just
completely blown away. >> BERLYN: People would see Zork and they'd
go, "I got to have me one of them. That's all. Who do I make the check out to?"
>> WOODS: We have somebody who helped on Adventure played a little bit of Zork and his comment
was that, "You don't go into Zork to play, you go into Zork to do battle."
>> CAMPBELL: I actually completed Zork and that was probably in itself like the biggest
accomplishment I made, you know. >> BLANK: And the company was literally founded
and named before we had any idea what kind of products we were doing. So by definition,
you want a name that can pretty much go anywhere. So Infocom sounded like it could be a billion-dollar
company. We had no idea what it did, but it sounds substantial.
>> BERLYN: The people who formed Infocom, these were very talented folks from the Computer
Science department at MIT. If you know what the word schlump means, I don't think there
were any at the company. There were no average people there.
>> KALUZNIACKI: If you had some technical knowledge and some understanding of what the
disk capacity was and you cared to count characters, you wondered, how is it possible that they
got so much text on a disk? >> GRANADE: They were sort of things to waste
my time, fun little diversions and then I hit Infocom and like, "Wow. This is really,
really, good." >> ROMERO: Very professionally done, so I
knew that every time an Infocom game came out, it was going to be extremely high quality.
>> FORMAN: You know it's---it was really kind of the Renaissance for as far as game packaging
design, because they put out some really gorgeous-looking packages that, really, we have not seen anything
like since then. Keep in mind, these were not Collector's Editions, these were the standard
versions of the packaging. >> MORIARTY: And, you know, all of the other
games were kind of crappy packaging and everything, but there on the shelf was this one game which
was like in a dossier with this detective thing going on. It was Deadline. And I saw
that and I found out it was like a text--not only a text adventure, it was a really advanced
text adventure. So I said like--I said, "Oh, this is it. I got to do this."
>> MERETZKY: I think I felt lucky at the time. I definitely, you know, looking back now,
20 years later, you know, I feel really, really lucky.
>> BLANK: When you're a programmer, you wrote payroll packages. I mean, you--you know, you
wrote software for scientific instruments. >> HORN: I was working on a fertilizer-mixing
system in BASIC. >> BLANK: You know something like that or
you did some kind of research. But this idea that you could somehow make a living doing
what we were doing, well, you know, the fun we were having making games and everything
is ridiculous. >> GALLEY: It's a job that didn't exist when
I first started my working life. And in a sense it doesn't exist anymore now.
>> BRIGGS: ...talking about how wonderful it was. And it really was. I mean, I can say,
for me it was a sad truth, that it was the best job I've ever had and a job I don't think
I could ever get again. >> GALLEY: I remember telling friends that
if I could have any job at all, I think it would be this one.
>> MARTINEZ: It was a fun factory. You know, and they put in the Play-Doh and they--we
press the button and out come all these interesting things, but they didn't know how that process
worked at all. >> BRIGGS: Not a job, it was an amazing creative
experience with an amazing, creative group. And I do think it was something very special
and unusual. >> BATES: You would hear conversations there
at Infocom, and other game companies that you never hear--would hear anywhere else in
your life. >> ANDERSON: In one day we were talking about
the properties of bat guano and in the middle of it, we stopped and said, "No one's going
to believe we actually discussed this at work." >> BATES: You know, so you're walking down
the hall and out of somebody's office is going, "Well, you know, the elf is drunk but I've
given him the Wand of Disappearing..." >> MARTINEZ: And we called it Interactive
Fiction, not text adventures and, you know, part of that was being a little bit grand
about the medium and its possibilities, but part of it was I think it was a more accurate
term. >> DORNBROOK: I think there was a time period,
probably '80 to '84 sort of range where for a lot of the machines compared to anything
else out there, there was just nothing that compared.
>> MARTINEZ: We have three or four games in the Top 20 of Softsel all the time in '83,
'84, '85. We were definitely one of the more important publishers and possibly one of the
most respected. >> ROMERO: All the other games companies back
then, they have adventure games; those came from the text adventure era. So, you know,
a lot of people owe everything to text adventures. >> BERLYN: When I started, the goal was to
push the envelope. The goal was to create something different and new and exciting,
something nobody had ever seen or experienced before.
>> DORNBROOK: We were able to compress things in ways that delivered so much more than anything
else. >> MORIATRY: You felt like you're joining
like a special, brainy club by buying these products. And, you know, I put my Starcross
poster up on the wall and sat there with all my accessories around me and I was happy as
a clam. >> DORNBROOK: People were wowed by it when
they saw those games. When they found how much they got, how much--how many hours of
entertainment they got out of those games. >> MORIATRY: The whole feel of it, the marketing
and everything has just had this very friendly "Smart People Feel" about it. And I don't
know how to put it without sounding snobby. But it just--it was for--it was from literate
people. Those were people who liked to read. >> NEWSMAN: Cathy, I guess you know as well
as I do that most people at one time or another have played those Space Invader-type games
on their computers. >> Uh-hmm.
>> NEWSMAN: But I've ever thought of a game in which you sort of match wits with a computer?
Kind of a "Whodunit?" situation in which what you do dictates the outcome of a game?
>> Sounds interesting. >> NEWSMAN: Yes.
>> And what you're doing is allowing the person to essentially be Raymond Chandler and program
their way through to the end one or the beginning. >> That's exactly right. In some ways it's
like a book, in some ways it's like a game. >> We wrap ourselves in the game and become
the participant. >> A new type of story in which your decisions
and your active participation affects the outcome.
>> What will they think of next? >> This is the kind of thing that we're going
to be playing with into the 21st century. >> MERETZKY: Certainly, I think I speak for,
you know, all of us when, you know, when I say that we definitely didn't spend enough
time kind of thinking about how lucky we were at that time. You know, we kind of assumed,
"Well, this is what it's always going to be like. This is going to go on forever." You
know, much like youth itself. You know, there wasn't much reflection on, "This is, you know,
this is just a, you know, a shooting star and in a year or in three years, it will all
be gone." >> ORCUTT: The thing that I was so taken by was this idea you were literally
stepping into a world. >> BATES: It's as if the player and I are
in a room together. It's me and him and it's, "What are you going to try and how am I going
to respond?" >> ORCUTT: You can make a choice and your
choices have ramifications. And you think about that.
>> SHIGA: I think as a kid, you don't get to make a lot of choices about your life.
You know, you don't get to choose where you live, you don't get to choose where you go
to school, you don't get to choose your classes even.
>> WELBOURN: Exploring, discovery, seeing what's around the next corner.
>> SHIGA: For a kid, it's really appealing to be able to, you know, in this fantasy world
essentially make your own choices in life. >> HORN: That level of dynamic interaction
and that number of tree branches was unheard of.
>> CADRE: The idea of coming up with these huge worlds where there's so much that you
can see and do. >> O'BRIAN: When I played Zork, I felt like
I was in that world and the computer screen disappeared and it was--it was like reading
a book only even cooler than reading a book in certain ways because I could do things
in that world. >> WELBOURN: It lets you see other people's
points of view, I think. You get to see the worlds that other people live in.
>> SERAPHIN: They had such a craft to them. They've really sat down and do this.
>> GRIFFITHS: The way the game worked is it drew your mind into the game completely. But
the flipside of that is it took an investment of time on your part to get into the game,
because it wasn't just simple. I mean, you know, there were things that took twenty steps
to solve a problem and you had to figure out every one of those twenty steps.
>> ROBERTS: It was all you thought about for a month, you know, while you're working on
this thing. Or, you know, in some cases, it would take you like a year to finish one of
these. >> GRIFFITHS: It was really--it was this communal
sense of "Let's see if we can tackle this thing." And the puzzles were just so numerous
and so massive, it almost felt like you needed to have someone helping.
>> SHAW: And when someone would have a big breakthrough, we'd go rushing down and say,
"I think we have to do this." And, you know, it would work or not work. And the maps would
come out and notes would get made and.... >> ROBERTS: Because there, you know, there
wasn't the Internet for the instant hints and all that. And so, you actually had to
sit down and bash your head against it yourself. >> SHERMAN: And Zork in the Radio Shack, you
couldn't play alone because you had three guys in your shoulder. "No, dude, you know,
you lift up the folded piece of plastic. You got to," you know. So, solitary and it was
a team sport, too. Though, most people would not imagine that it could be.
>> ROMERO: Saturdays at seven in the morning was when everybody came up to the college
to watch this guy play Adventure. So, that was where I basically got my exposure, was
watching somebody else play it. I wasn't able to actually play it myself.
>> GRIFFITH: So, I--it was a long process. It wasn't kind of like a week's worth of gaming
where we said, "That was kind of cool. I wonder what's next?"
>> MERETZKY: I think most people who are working on the games thought that the most special
thing about them was the obsessive nature of puzzle solving. And how you could be, you
know, playing the game and trying things and nothing's working and you're tearing your
hair out and finally you like give up and you turn the computer off and you go stomping
away and the next day you're at work and not even thinking about it and suddenly, "Oh,
my God." And then you can't like wait to get home to like try what you just thought of.
You know, and you go like running in and you turn on the computer and you try it and it
worked. >> WELBOURN: It's very rarely that I find
myself playing a game of IF without taking notes. You couldn't hold the map in your head.
You had to map it out. There's lots and lots of objects. You had to make notes of where
everything was and what it was used for and what you hadn't figured out yet. Personally,
I like taking notes. I like having my own little, you know, notch on the bed post as
it were that I figured this out. It's sort of like my own little personal progress bar,
as to what I've been able to accomplish in these games.
>> HEWISON: And I think getting an adventure game has probably appealed to people who are
very methodical and very logical in the way they do things because mapping's a huge part
of playing any adventure--text adventure. >> GRIFFITHS: Like Colossal Cave was relatively
straight forward in that, if you left a room from the north, you would then exit that room
again to the south and you'd wind up where you started. But Zork had these passages that
apparently went out of the room to the north and then you twisted and turned and spun and
such that it--going south again might get you into an entirely different room. Mapping
was quite time-consuming and we were working on like a huge line printer paper from the
original fourteen inches wide, fifteen inches wide? That comes off those high-speed line
printers. And even that, we had several sheets taped together by the time we were done. I
mean, it was--it was a big, complex environment that they put together.
>> MONTFORT: I can draw a map that not only tells me how things are connected in space
but also where objects were that I have picked up. You can note on the map were you got them.
You can note where it seems like there's a--some obstacle and you can start thinking about
puzzles as well. >> BRUCKER SR: This parallels exactly the
mapping of a large cave system. And it's only when you do that is you begin to comprehend
what the pattern is. In caving, you try to find the pattern. Once you know the pattern,
you know the process that created the cave and you can see the missing parts of the pattern.
>> SHIOVITZ: And mazes are sort of a special case in IF. Like people have a pathological
aversion to mazes. Which is, you know, like you--I don't know. You like to ring a bell
and then like you kick a dog a bunch of times and like it starts, like, crying after you
ring the bell a couple of times. So that's how people in the IF community feel about
mazes. >> THORTON: Oh, my God, a maze? Kill me now.
>> SHIOVITZ: And there's nothing--there's nothing intrinsically wrong about mazes, but
people have like a built-in aversion to them by now. So, that's--that's kind of a special
case. >> LEBLING: I thought mazes were old-school
from the beginning, myself. >> Mazes were a staple of early Interactive
Fiction. It seems as though virtually every story had at least one or two mazes that you
had to somehow map your way around in and figure your way out of.
>> LEBLING: The ultimate adventure game cliché is a maze. And so, there was always, "Oh,
my, you know, another maze. Oh, please." Or, you know, "This one is too ridiculous."
>> When you're encountering something for the first time, it seems really cool. When
I played Zork, I was like, "Oh, this maze. What a brilliant idea." And then 50,000 iterations
later, it just does not seem so brilliant. >> DOUGLASS: IF is actually pretty crummy
at literal, spatial mazes. 3D graphics do that much better. You can create enormous,
immersive, expansive environments that are highly confusing that you wander around in
and you do all your wandering visually and physically. Typing, "GO NORTH, GO EAST, GO
SOUTH, GO EAST, GO NORTH, GO EAST" at a certain point, you start to long for a joystick.
>> RADOFF: The worst thing you can ask a player to do is sit down with a pad of paper, dropping
items in each room so they can keep of track what these different rooms are and then be
able to put all the little lines together. Essentially, it just becomes tedium and it
takes you out of that immersion into the world. >> LEBLING: My goal whenever I wrote a game
that had a maze in it was to produce a maze that if you got the trick became trivial.
>> MONTFORT: There maybe limits to what mazes can do. I don't think they can impress on
us, you know, powerful new ideas about the world.
>> DOUGLASS: Old-style mazes in 3D games and console games and in IF always will work to
burn more hours and create a more kind of consumable playtime, but if you're not understanding
the way the author is thinking and having insights, what's the point?
>> PLOTKIN: If you sit down in front of a text adventure for the first time, the first
thing that is going to happen is you're going to type something and the computer is not
going to understand it. That's a real experience. The misconception is that, that's the intended
interaction of the game and that's what the author has spent all of his time thinking
about. The truth is, of course, that the author has this huge set of assumptions about what
you know. The author thinks that you're--you've got a good grounding in how most of these
games work and he spent all of his time thinking about how he can make this well-known text
adventure interface unique and interesting for his situation. Which is great for our
community because we're all familiar with it, it's a total failure for newcomers. I
wish I had a fantastic story to tell you about how I've solved this problem. I do not.
>> CRAWFORD: People I think misunderstand the nature of interactivity, thinking that
it requires giving the player absolute freedom. >> SHIOVITZ: Like if you're an inexperienced
player, you might think that you can be able to write just, "TAKE OVER KINGDOM" and have
it work. >> WOODS: Something is mentioned, just because
it adds a distinctive flavor to the room but the player's response is, "Oh, you mentioned
rocks here. Let me try and pick up a rock." >> JERZ: Someone's going to type, "EXAMINE
SUN" and if you haven't implemented the sun as a separate object, they're going to, you
know, say, "Ha-ha, that's a mistake, this sucks."
>> ADAMS: Because the more freedom you give to the player, the more the player has the
power to do things you did not anticipate and to do things you did not want.
>> MARTINEZ: I mean, it's like a--you know, like a funhouse ride or, you know, at the
amusement park. You're on rails. You really are on rails and, you know, to a large part.
And you can sort of travel off to these tributaries but you're still, ultimately, on rails.
>> JERZ: The player and the author have an illusion of interact. But it is just an illusion.
But, you know, when we go to the movies and we watch a movie, we don't think we're really
in the place where the movie is representing. There's all kinds of illusions, the willing
suspension of disbelief happens everywhere. >> BLANK: It's like ELIZA, it's like ELIZA--you
get an answer but it has nothing to do with what you're doing and at some point, you realize
it's a fake. >> BERLYN: You know, frankly, we couldn't--as
implementers, we couldn't anticipate--well, not only could we not anticipate everything,
we couldn't anticipate half of what was expected. >> BLANK: So what happens is, the worlds get
bigger and as you open up the vocabularies, they get sparser because there's less real
information and it's mostly noise. It's just there to convince you that the world is there.
>> BATES: And that was mostly not because the implementers weren't smart about it, it
was because of the severe limitations on the number of just the sheer vocabulary you could
have in the game. >> MERETZKY: The total text in a typical Infocom
game maybe would equal like a 30 page novella. >> MORIARTY: I mean, Zork, the size of a Zork
game is I think around like 88KB, or something like that, total. It's very tiny. It only--didn't
even use all of the virtual machine. And Wishbringer banged right up against that 128KB limit of
the original system had. It was very hard to do any kind of deep exploration of the
subject, because you just don't have room for the text.
>> MERETZKY: You can't handle everything that somebody might try. What you want to do is
you want to handle the most common things that people will try and the most interesting
things that people will try. >> REED: As a player of Interactive Fiction,
it's very easy to not appreciate the work that went into it. You just come across one
error message or one response that the designer didn't think of and you think, "Oh, forget
this game." After you've actually gone through it and had to think of all these things and
code them and write them yourself, your perspective really changes.
>> MERETZKY: And how much of the very limited resources that you have, do you want to expend
on letting the player go down on that direction? So, in a lot of cases what we just did in
that case is just kill the player. >> FEIR: Yes. It's almost what is--what is
left unsaid, unrevealed in a lot of cases. You don't know exactly what that dragon would
look like. And I never would anyway. But to, you know, to have that gap where you fill
in your conception of a dragon, it will be your ultimate dragon.
>> You take a stock of your possessions. You're wearing a pack. You have one zorkmid of which
appears on your keyboard. By the way, you can check the amount of key you're holding
at anytime with the cash demand or just [INDISTINCT] by return. [INDISTINCT]
>> NORLING: It's like you would pretend you would have magic, right? But you don't know
what's it's really like. I mean, you don't really know what it's like to have magic.
I mean, you can read a lot about what's--you can read science fiction and sort of put yourself
in the place of a telepathic or magical character, but you really don't know what it's like.
And I think that's sort of the same. It's like playing to be--I'm playing at being sighted.
>> SERAPHIN: It's weird--it's funny playing games, like I actually--that actually does
trip me out, sometimes. I have to, you know, in games where you have like a lantern or
a flashlight or something to provide a source of light. I don't think about that. It's like
you go into a room, "Its like--it's pitch black, you can't see anything." And I'm like,
"I don't care." >> FEIR: Yes. If you play something like Zork,
everything is described. And sighted people don't always do that. So, you not only hear--get a sense of place
and how places work and how you move through them but you also get a sense of objects.
You can examine, you know, every--it's pretty much everything you can pick up in that game
and it'll have a description. So, it's very helpful.
>> NORLING: The thing about text adventures is they really help you build your mental
maps, especially if you don't cheat and write anything down. And I know that the more I
played text adventures, the more effective I was at navigating a strange place.
>> SERAPHIN: That's it. There aren't limits. You can explore a world with all your senses.
I think for the blind, it's actually really liberating, because you can explore a world
with sight. >> FIER: My friends in Haunted Theater--I,
you know, I played that in the university and I never would have realized that so much,
you know, location was involved. So many different areas were involved in an old-style movie
theater. >> ADAMS: My last game, I deliberately put
in a section of the game that allows a blind player to play it. It's screen scraper friendly.
So that it would read out loud the game to them and allow them to play. And that was
done because I was approached by blind players asking me to do that. That was kind of an
eye-opener for me to make me think about the necessity of doing that.
>> Get lantern. You take the rusty lantern off the sign.
>> GALLEY: The first time that we went to the Consumer Electronic Show in Chicago, I
was finishing work on Seastalker and working in our booth on the floor. I got a chance
to give a short demo for a group of schoolteachers who were there. And after just the shortest
demo I've ever given, they said, "Oh, this is wonderful. This is just what our students
need. It's on their level. They'll be interested, they'll learn from it." And I felt really
good about that. >> DESILETS: I started teaching in 1968. This
last year is my 38th year. Teaching with Interactive Fiction poses some real--really significant
challenges for teachers. It's not an easy technique. It's a wonderfully powerful technique.
It's great for helping kids to solve problems, outstanding for improving kids' reading comprehension,
unique in its power to help kids read with greater fluency.
>> EILERS: Writing for Interactive Environments is a class looking at traditional story structure
and then discussing also how it takes place in games, drawing analogies to film and other
popular media. >> BOGOST: I give them two weeks. At the start
of the two weeks, they've never before seen a piece of Interactive Fiction. They've maybe
have never played a text adventure and they've certainly never programmed in Inform. And
at the end, they have to turn something in. So that's the experience.
>> EILERS: So our first things we do in that class is we work on "What are good characters?
And then what are good settings for stories and how does one interact with one another.
Then we talk about things like puzzle structures. What's a good puzzle? What's a good riddle?
>> BOGOST: In my case, when I'm using IF in teaching, it's not really for the IF. It's
not for the Interactive Fiction at all. It's maybe--it's for the idea of simulating space.
And also just to give my students some weird environment that they've never worked in.
>> DESILETS: Usually they become very interested very quickly and will ask to try some more
of that story the next day or very soon thereafter. >> EILERS: Write a character but write him
four different ways. Show me him from the perspective of his father. Show me him from
the perspective of his friend who hates him now because they had an altercation in the
past. >> DESILETS: I mean, this is the only form
of literature that has built into it aesthetically designed pauses in the process of reading
that are perfect from the teacher's point of view.
>> JERTZ: You know, among my students who like Interactive Fiction the least, a certain
number complain that it made them think too hard and I really don't mind if people complain
that I make them think. >> DESILETS: You actually learn a new form
of literature. And it--along with many of the other challenges that go with teaching
in the current era, it--you know, it makes it difficult for teachers to work even if
they have one another to support. >> EILERS: For them the real challenge is
getting them to actually sit down and read a serial, linear, closed narrative. For them,
reading is a chore. It's--and that--I find that--it's funny, I find myself both ways.
I'm like, that's heart-breaking that they think that reading is a dead thing, but at
the same time, they're writing for a world where they're going to have to craft this
broken up, chopped up, sliced and diced narratives for different mediums and they're going to
have to learn to adapt broken up, chopped up, sliced and diced narratives--chopped up,
broken up and they're going to have to learn to adapt.
>> DOUGLASS: My doctorate is officially in English Literature. My field is New Media.
No discipline has been extremely excited about owning text adventure games. They've found
academic safe harbor in whatever individual was most passionate about them. But I mean,
of course, Mary Ann Buckles' doctorate in German Literature, right?
>> BUCKELS: I think that topic, unfortunately, chose me. They were just so happy and looked
like they were having a great time. That's what I remember of the first--my first contact
with Adventure that, "Oh, these people love this. They're totally involved in it." If
you stood at the beginning of films, if you stood at the beginning of radio, if you stood
at that moment and you knew this is important. This is not just something to toss aside.
This is really, really important. Could you go back and write about Georg Trakl and his
poetry about purple beasts? I mean, it's beautiful poetry and I loved--I love that poetry, but
that's unimportant. And this topic was important. Someday there is going to be a genius, an
absolute genius who writes something so brilliant, so involving, so magnificent that you'll just
weep for joy doing these games because they make you involved in the story. That's just
so different than anything else that we've ever had.
>> DOUGLASS: I don't know if my fate will be to be left in some sort of academic dust
bin of history or if this will be a brilliant coup that will become the cornerstone of a--of
a luminous career, but I do know that it was time well spent and that when I look at what
I've done, I think, "Even if not me, I hope somebody comes along and builds on this."
>> BUCKLES: They were having so much--it was a moment when people were having so much fun.
It was a ball. That was really fun. That was really--and I thought "Oh, if everybody were
doing this, all of society would be better because we'd all be happier. We'd all play
with each other a little bit more. It'd be, you know, like being kids again. It didn't
turn out quite that way. >> Now, did you actually solve adventure?
>> BUCKLES: No, I never did. I never did. I never did.
>> BARTLE: Let's have a little thought experiment here. All right, you're playing in a virtual
world. And it's got these pictures, they're looking pretty good. And you think, "Oh, that's
pretty good." And you think, "I like these pictures and that's pretty good." And it's
a--and it's a 3D world, but I'm only seeing it in 2D on a screen so maybe if I got like
a little headset on and put it on, now I can see it in 3D. But if I move my head a bit
too much--oh well, maybe if we put little sensors on, so I can move my head. Yes, now,
I can see it properly, yes. It's all here. But I'm still only seeing things and maybe
I could have maybe some feeling as well. So I put a little data glove on and, "Oh, yes.
Oh, it feels warm. Oh, that's good." But I'm still--I'm not hearing things. I'll put some
goggles on. And I haven't got this sense of being in a place. I maybe--I want to be able
to move. So I say, "Well, let's get these big like-coffin things and fill them full
of these gels. And I'll take off all my clothes and put on all of these different devices
and I'll lie down on it and it pull it--these electric currents through and make it feel
hard or soft. So, it gives me the impression that I'm actually walking through grass because
it's generating. And now, I'm beginning to feel I'm really in one of these places. But
of course, really what's all that's happening here is that my senses are being fooled into
this. What would happen if I was maybe cut out the whole business with the fingers and
they stick a little jack in the back of your head and it goes right into the spinal cord
and then you're talking straight to the brain there? All the senses that come into your
brain, they're all filtered and they're used to create a world model inside your head and
your imagination. But if you could talk straight to that imagination and cut out all the senses,
then you would--it would be impossible to ignore it. You couldn't say, "Oh, that's just
an image of a dragon." That would be a dragon. And if there was some kind of technology which
could enable you to talk straight to the imagination, well, there is. It's called text. And it's
been around several thousand years. And I have seen people leap out of their chairs
when a line is said in front of them, "There is an immense fire-breathing dragon here."
And when you're typing, the output that you're typing is in words, the same as the input.
There's no shift. It's not that you're looking at a picture and then typing in words, looking
at a picture then moving a mouse around. It's the same environment, it's all words, it's
all thoughts, it's all the imagination. So, when you're dealing with text, it's really
for people who have got strong imaginations. And the tragedy is that many people have strong
imaginations, it's just they never get to play the text because they went for the graphics
first. Will we always have text? We will always have text. Will we always be inferior to graphics?
Well, in terms of player numbers, yes. In terms of player experience, no, because no
matter how far you take graphics, eventually the farthest you can get is text. So, rant
for you. >> Excellent.
>> FRIDD: I'm not one for click and much name games. I can't go on with them. I think its
best up here. It's the best computer you can get. It's your brain.
>> GRIFFITHS: You know, I think people's mind have changed over 27 years and we may not
be satisfied anymore with text and ">GET KNIFE and >KILL TROLL." But when you play it, to
me, anyway, it's still as mentally engrossing as it ever was.
>> MORIARTY: When you're reading the prose, it's like you hear it in your head and that
you're forming your own picture of it, a picture which is a personal thing to you. And not
some art director's idea of what Gollum looks like or what he sounds like.
>> LEBLING: People would much rather look at pictures than read, as a rule. There's,
you know, sort of a--there's a sub-culture of people who love to read and are passionate
about reading and passionate about books. But it's not a majority of the public.
>> BARTLE: Text is lost because people just expect computer games to have graphics. And
if you want them to play a game that doesn't have graphics, then you have to give them
a very good reason not to. >> ADAMS: Throughout the greatest of literature,
the greatest of art does is it resonates back to yourself. And, you know, a side-scrolling
shooter where you're just endlessly blowing up identical spacecraft is not going to do
that. But text adventures gave us the possibility that a story could have meaningful consequences
of both internally and for the reader, for the player in a way that had never been seen
before. >> SERAPHIN: There's something that needs
to be re-found. We've lost something and we need to find it again.
>> NEPSTAD: The prevailing opinion is, no one will go to their computer and sit there
and read to play something. They want to see the visuals. They want to play with the Xbox
or something like that. But in fact, what's happened since then? Now, we all have the
Internet. And what do people do with computers most of the time that they're sitting on the
computer? They're on the Internet and they're reading. And they read a page and then they
type something in. Maybe they type a new address and they go to that next address. They click
on the next thing to go the next page. And we read for hours and hours on our computers
now. And they didn't believe that we would do that anymore. And now we're back to it.
We're all reading on our computers. I don't think that there--if we just put it out there
and say, "Here's a text game," and we'll put it in book shops and put it in computer stores,
I think it's an easy sell. >> SCOTT: In case you're wondering what's
happening is... >> GRIFFTIHS: I mean if you like solving puzzles,
Interactive Fiction, I mean it's--there are puzzles and some of them are doozies.
>> MARTINEZ: Interactive Fiction required you to look at a set of objects, a set of
characters and situations. >> MONTFORT: You have to explore an environment
and you have to try to see what's going on and then you have to figure out what the right
course of action is; what to do. >> MARTINEZ: And then somehow pop outside
of your frame of reference, so that you can see it in a different way and get the solution
and figure out how to get through that door. >> WELBOURNE: It's up to you to solve it after
I've done all my moves. >> MONTFORT: So Graham Nelson said that Interactive
Fiction was like a story at war with a crossword puzzle. There's this aspect of narrative reading
and the type of enjoyment we get from literature and then just puzzle-solving.
>> WELBOURNE: It's like building an obstacle course in real life and having people run
through it. >> MARTINEZ: You would introduce bugs into
your story. You know, places where, you know, you can't get there from here and you have
to or there's some linkage that's missing. >> ASPNES: You have to pick up this object
to go to this room so you can get through that door except you can't carry this large
thing through there. >> MONTFORT: There's a strange system. There's
this environment with its own strange physical laws and you have to figure out what they
are, "What does this mean?" >> THORTON: It's really kind of weird, right?
You've got a story and either to get more of the story or to see stuff. I mean whether
or not its puzzle, you have to keep poking at it. That's--that doesn't seem like it should
be very entertaining, does it? But it works for me.
>> O'BRIAN: There is a real, real pleasure to working on a puzzle for a while, not looking
at the hints and then having it come to you in a flash of insight. That is just a great
feeling. >> WELBOURNE: Puzzles in IF are sort of an
outgrowth of previous challenges between people. >> WOODS: Certainly, even before computers
and adventure games, there have been people whose job it was to come up with puzzles where
eventually you figure out and have the "A-ha!" moment, which is so satisfying and, you know,
you solve it and you're done. >> MONTFORT: I think the riddle provides a
special power in understanding what's happening there, because in a riddle you have language
that you use to describe often very ordinary things. So you have to read and you have to
figure things out. Systems of thinking that are slightly off from the everyday. Solving
or resolving the things that you read, the world that you're in. Riddles give that to
us and also Interactive Fiction. And it provides something that the text of a riddle doesn't:
a way that you can test your answer. >> THORTON: The sorts of puzzles you could
come up with was open-ended. You know, the game designer got to think of what it was
you were trying to do instead of it being well, "Come up with a set of rules and then
there's just random elements that make the puzzle different each time."
>> MONTFORT: If you're right, you find out, yes. You were right. You understand something
about this unusual system. >> THORTON: There was no limit on what you
could include in the game. It's just a small matter of programming, as they say.
>> SMITH: So there should always be something for the player to do. Whether it's--and traditionally
that's solving puzzles. >> GENTRY: With a game where you're trying
to create a narrative, there's a push. You're trying to push the player into a--in a certain
direction. >> THORTON: The trick is to put puzzles in
there in such a way that they seem like their part of the natural flow of the story rather
than being what they really are which is the locked gate you have to get through to get
the next chunk of prose. >> MICKLUS: You had to appeal to their sense
of overcoming the odds and figuring things out.
>> SHERWIN: As an author, you have to have the faith of the player. You have to have
your player think, especially when you're going through puzzles that the problem is
with them. >> BARTLE: These are the rules that I'm going
to follow. And I'm always going to stick by these rules. Now, you don't know what's going
to happen in this game. You don't know all the rules in this game. Uncovering the rule
is part of the fun. >> WOODS: From my point of view, I could have
all the fun of coming up with more puzzles. Whereas, other people, once they solved all
the puzzles, they were done. I was never done. I could always come up with more puzzles.
>> PLOTKIN: Here is something--some action that the player can do which is not obvious
and not insane. It's surprisingly clever and I mean that in a very specific criterion.
When the player thinks of it, he'll be surprised at how clever he is.
>> MERETZKY: Puzzles work best when they're integrated with all the other elements of
the game and not just something that's laid on. The same way that story works best when
it's, you know, kind of integrated with the other components of the game and not something
that you just lay on at the end. >> SHIOVITZ: For me, like the ideal IF game
would be one which is winnable on the first turn, but you don't know what the command
is to win it until you've gone all the way through the game and solved it.
>> PLOTKIN: You're simultaneously designing everything leading up to that puzzle. All
the interactions with that object up until then, all the uses of that verb--that slightly
obscure verb up until then... >> SHIOVITZ: The process of the game then
would be the process of teaching the player how to win. And then once you've taught them
how to win, the actual act of winning is trivial. [PAUSE]
>> PINKSY: The vision that Ihor had that made him look up some high-brow poet who was teaching
at Berkeley was an impulse to put more art, more intellectual content, something more
like literature into the interactive computer electronic theater. I was interested in the
kind of hybrid way art moves along. I was interested in something new. And it was clear
to me from my small experience of Adventure, the description of Zork, the stuff I saw on
these monochrome monitors that this was largely about the quest plot which is one of the basic
plots of great works. The Gilgamesh epic is a quest for the nature of immortality, the
nature of death, the nature of mortality. And "KILL DWARF," "GET SWORD," et cetera was
completely in that line. Indeed, the imagery was very traditional. The closest I came to
any conflict or anxiety was their constant pressure to put puzzles in the thing. I just
wanted to keep imagining. And they said, "You know, the guys who pay money for this will
be very disappointed if they can get from A to Z in an hour, let alone ten minutes.
They want a week or two of agony." Of course, they were right. A lot of our--I wouldn't
call them arguments. A lot of our discussions, the dialectic was between I wanted to think
of some new goofy thing and they wanted to be sure that it would be hard to figure out,
that there would be a strong puzzle aspect to it.
>> CRAWFORD: I have never been very enthusiastic about puzzles.
>> O'BRIAN: I suck at puzzles. I suck at solving puzzles and I suck at creating puzzles.
>> CRAWFORD: Puzzles don't really permit much rich interaction. Basically, either you get
it wrong, in which case you're frustrated and confused and angry or you get it right,
in which case you're bored. >> SHERWIN: Once a player realizes that, "Oh,
I was doing everything right, it's just that the parser didn't understand the synonym I
was trying to use," it's really tough to get the player back.
>> CRAWFORD: There's a right and a wrong. And the right is the author's version of right
and you have to find his right way of doing it.
>> SHIOVITZ: But from the player's perspective, it's not any more valid than any of the other
hundreds of possible solutions they see beforehand. >> O'BRIAN: Hunger puzzles, light source puzzles.
There were all these hallmarks of old-school IF that actually created, at least in my experience,
mostly aggravation. >> SHIOVITZ: You ate the bread here, so now
you don't have it later on so now you starve to death. Or you starve to death here or you
didn't do this in time and so now too late. The game has been made unwinnable and Krill
the Sorcerer takes over the world. >> O'BRIAN: They were more in there to make
things take a long time than to really bring you into the world or help you have fun.
>> THORNTON: It's easy to write puzzles that are just impossible to solve.
>> SHERMAN: Well, if I stand in the 15th room in the eastern corner holding a purple saucer
and I say, "Shazam!" >> EILERS: You have things which make no sense
at all. You have a monster you kill in the woods and it drops a golden bracelet. What
was it doing with the golden bracelet? We really don't know. It's never explained.
>> SHIOVITZ: So when somebody complains about an old trope in a dungeon or something like
that, what they're really I think saying is, "Oh my God, this means that we're going to
see the puzzle with like a five cup measure and a three cup measure and you need to get
four cups of water." Like no one wants to see the old puzzles again, because we've already
solved the old puzzles. Like when you solve a puzzle, you've drained all the juice out
of it. >> BERLYN: I don't know anybody who erases
crossword puzzles to fill them in again. I really don't. I--you know. Do you?
>> THORNTON: Overall, puzzle space, I think was largely played out in the mid '80s in
terms of what is done in text adventures. Every so often, someone comes up with neat
variations on it or neat ways of subverting things so that what you thought was one sort
of a puzzle turns into another sort. >> CRAWFORD: This black and white approach
doesn't work very well. And again, that was what held back--has always held back Interactive
Fiction. >> EILERS: Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy,
I make all the students play that game. And if they can't beat the Babel Fish puzzle,
which everybody who's played that one knows what I'm talking about. If they can't beat
that one, they get a C in that assignment. To them, it's silly and childish and primitive.
And it still kicks their ass. They can't get past it.
>> O'BRIAN: There's no shame in looking at the hints, I've decided because you get to
see the end of the story. And for me, the story is the thing that I'm the most interested
in, anyway. >> BARTLE: But if you're a game designer and
you're looking at somebody else's game and you see these things, you think, "Wow, you
know, it's pretty good there. I quite like that." But the players wouldn't think that.
But because you, as a designer have seen it, you think, you know, "It's pretty good." You're
not playing the game anymore. You're playing "I am a designer looking at something which
is good." >> SCHULZ: Adventure games are not like real
life. There are solutions. And so whenever you feel like, "Well, I'm stuck, there is
no--this puzzle is impossible." They're always possible. It's not like, again, there always
is an object to be found somewhere. It's not like a key you might lose and that it's gone.
The key is in the dump somewhere at some landfill nine miles away, you're never going to find
it. In the adventure game, the key will be found. Okay? And if it's not a key for that
door then there is another solution. And when you bear that in mind that there is a solution,
the games become easier to play and more fun. >> The last time I need to do this.
>> DORNBROOK: You know when we were making them, initially, we often talked about the
fact that this is a genre that could last for centuries. You know, we looked at, you
know, we would compare it to the book and say, "Well, I know. Yes, technology has changed.
And they're, you know, phonographs came along and the radios and televisions and all these
other technologies. But you know, the book is still the book and it still sells. Just
because other kinds of games are possible or fancy graphics are possible or whatever
doesn't mean that there's no room for a text adventure." So we were fairly convinced that
that is--that was a genre that could continue, you know. Like I honestly--I think we might
have been kidding ourselves in terms of it being, you know, big enough to sustain, you
know, a company but obviously it's continued in terms of hobbyists doing it.
>> GRANADE: It started on a group of Usenet newsgroups, rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction
that were originally talking about hypertext and things like that, but slowly discussion
of Infocom games came to dominate it in the early '90s.
>> DOUGLASS: I rediscovered Interactive Fiction through the online communities that had been
around for quite a while. And so, there was this nucleus of people who were interested
in Interactive Fiction and talking about it and doing reverse-engineering of Infocom's
story format and all that kind of thing. Everything was tied in and as soon as you find the outer
edge of the web, everything funnels in towards the center and you find this interconnected
group of people. >> GRANADE: You had some more artistic types
who were interested in the medium. And the academics who later were studying it as an
art form and so all of these people sort of accumulated around this newsgroup.
>> O'BRIAN: It kind of blows my mind that we have this group of people that is willing
to put in all of this work for free, knowing that they'll never be compensated in any way
besides people's attention and praise and they're creating these amazing pieces of work.
>> GRANADE: We're talking about a community that has been around, you know, we're coming
up really on 20 years worth of community if you go back to the early Internet days.
>> MORIARTY: I've been following the amateur scene fairly closely over the decades and,
you know, they've got all the basics down. There's some really, really talented people.
Anyone of them could have succeeded at Infocom, you know, as well as any of us, I think. There's
some really bright people out there doing these things.
>> MERETZKY: I guess my reaction was that, you know, that I thought this was very nice,
that the--that the genre, even though it had died as a commercial medium, you know, was
continuing to live on as an artistic medium and feeling, you know, almost a sense of relief
that, you know, that it would continue to live on in this new form.
>> ROBERTS: In terms of the real enthusiasts, it seems like everybody who's interested in
playing them is interested in writing them. >> LEBLING: They're not expecting to sell
or hoping to sell 100,000 copies at $30 or $40 a piece.
>> DOUGLASS: People are writing IF when they get off work. Or they're writing IF while
they're at work, if they have a job that enables them to do that.
>> LEBLING: They're hoping to make a literary or intellectual statement of some kind or
even just to explore something that they think is funny and they maybe the only ones who
think it's funny, but they're having a good time anyway.
>> WOODS: It's sort of like art films. You know, there are people who live for those
films but they're not going to be a commercial success, you won't show them in the main theaters
to the masses because the masses don't want to see that sort of thing. They don't want
to think that way. They don't, you know, they're there to be entertained. They're not there
go, you know, marvel at, "Oh, yeah. Well, that's a different way of looking at it."
>> DOUGLASS: We know what this model looks like. It doesn't look like the films industry.
It doesn't look like the games industry. It looks like Faulkner at his security job with
his typewriter in a little hut. >> ROBERTS: You know, if your audience is
mostly people who write these games, it's really the perfect thing.
>> DOUGLASS: It looks like writing novels. That's really exciting to me.
>> MOULTHROP: IF writers are awfully pure in my limited experience, but, you know, that's
the impression I have of them, is that they do this thing because they deeply love it.
And it's impossible at least for me not to admire that.
>> DOUGLASS: And so, then the question, "At what age should people write IF?" might be
a lot like the question, "What age should people write?" Let them--let them write badly
as early as possible and let them write more and better later.
>> Interactive Fiction is something that you can do you yourself. You know, you don't need
a group of 40 people and you don't need a panel of advisers. It's a real personal way
to write a game and when I'm doing that, I'm not really thinking about the audience. The
audience is me. Then when I'm finished, I want to share that.
>> ORCUTT: I think it was a control thing. I think ultimately, maybe not for everybody
who creates these games but I think there's a profound sense of power and control.
>> NEPSTAD: And this is something that I love and I'm creating this game because this is
the sort of game that I would love to play. >> ORCUTT: It's the realization of being a
god, a creator, creating a world that these lesser mortals--I don't think people consciously
think of it that way, but the idea that these other people are going to have to buy into
your world. That this world can be--it can be the vision that you have in mind.
>> GRANADE: Kevin Wilson created the competition and ran it for a couple of years and Kevin
asked David Dyte to take over. And after that first year, I think because of a number of
things going on, David was like, "Yes, this is not really something I want to do that
much." And so, he turned to me and said, you know, "I think you'd do a pretty decent job
of running it. Are you willing to take it?" And so I thought about it for a little while,
I was like, "Yes, sure. You know, I'll do this for a couple of years and then I can
hand it off." >> PLOTKIN: This was Kevin's intent in the
first place. Lots of people said, "Oh, I'd love to write a game but man, Infocom games
were huge, Curses is huge. I can't do anything that big." And Kevin said, "Well, how about
you just do a tiny, little game? That'd be fine. It could be one room. It could be one
puzzle. We'll accept it." And a lot of people said, "Hmm," including me. A lot of people
said, "Yes. I could do something small. It wouldn't take that long."
>> GRANADE: My best guess is you've got 1,000 to 2,000 people who will download it and try
at least one or two games. And then out of that, about 250 people who play enough, play
it within the timeframe and then enter their votes.
>> ROBERTS: I tend to think that if we didn't have the competition as something that the
community can accrete around, we'd probably be a lot more scattered and dissipated than
we are. >> GRANADE: It's easier to write a shorter
game so that you can get out there faster, you can get feedback faster and if it turns
out to crash and burn, you go, "Well, that was three or four months of my life," instead
of, "That was my two-year masterpiece." >> O'BRIAN: Every Interactive Fiction competition
has excellent games entered into it and so the bar is very high that you have to meet.
And so, coming in, in 8th place, I just felt like, "Hey, that's pretty good, considering
the things that were ahead of me." >> CORNELSON: The bottom 10 games would just
be horrible. They, you know, One room, there's no puzzle, it doesn't work. You know, it takes you two seconds to recognize
what it is and they close your, you know, interpreter. >> GRANADE: Some people whose approach to
grading the games and reviewing them are sort of like--they take points away from the games
like ripping wings off of flies." You start out at a 10 and then you've got a spelling
error so now you're at nine and this command doesn't work, so you're at an eight. You know,
just ripping them off one by one. Thankfully, not everybody is like that. Part of the reason
people tend to enter the competition is they're guaranteed that audience, which is good because
it does tend to focus attention, but it's also bad, because I think in some cases people
say, "Well, yes. It's kind of crappy. Yes, I didn't finish it or get it beta-tested,
but let me enter it anyway and see what people think."
>> PLOTKIN: The IF Comp started as a way to get people writing games. At which it was
immensely successful. Now, the IF Comp is in some senses the only way to write a game.
That's not a--that's not a good outcome but better than writing no games at all.
>> ROBERTS: They tend to be this black hole that sucks all of the creativity of the community
every year into this one--this one time when everyone releases their games.
>> PLOTKIN: People have tried different things to, you know, get some of the spotlight off
the IF Comp and they've been partially successful. >> CORNELSON: And I think because of those
arguments, some other competitions have sprung up. Actually, I created one and so did Adam
Cadre. He created the Spring Thing, you know, instead of continually attacking the annual
comp; we've just gone and created our own. >> ROBERTS: Because I'd--I have to--I have
to admit that I do miss the long games. The short games tend to have--there, you know,
a few really good games come out of the comp every year, but there's just something different
about the long games and the short games. The short games don't have that way of involving
you for a month in kind of an obsessive activity. >> DOUGLASS: I also think that's actually
probably a pretty good description of why a lot of really bad IF writing is really bad.
It's that people imagine it though as being what they later discovered 3D graphics simulations
actually were. They imagined it as being just a way of re-creating the world around them
in computer form. >> MONTFORT: And what should we write about?
Well, we're either going to write about our own college. This is, you know, or some thinly-veiled
version of it. >> DOUGLAS: Here's my IF desk and here are
my IF papers and my IF cup and I'll drink out of it.
>> GRANADE: And so, after a while, you know, maybe you had patience for somebody starting
you out asleep in your bedroom, like tons and tons of other games and then after a while,
you're like, "Okay, people." >> WELBOURN: You get a lot of earnest tries
but the coding isn't quite there. The ideas aren't fully formed.
>> REED: I think there's a huge problem with Interactive Fiction games right now being
written for the authors. >> ROBERTS: Yes, I think if you look at the
comps, you see a lot of people trying self-consciously to be artistic.
>> O'BRIAN: There's definitely--which I love a wing of modern IF that is really out there
and trying very weird things. >> SMITH: Boundary-pushing games are not necessarily
going to be the best games. They lay ground work for the best games, I would say.
>> REED: Advancing the state of accessibility of IF is not really seen by the current community
as being a priority because they think, "Well, the people who are here now, you know, are
the ones who like it." >> THORNTON: Whether or not it's going to
be the right direction, ultimately, who knows? But hell, what's the right direction when
it's 200 of us writing games and giving them only to each other?
>> PLOTKIN: In '98--as early as '98, when I was working on Spider and Web, I was thinking,
"I--it would be awfully nice if I could publish a game and get money for it."
>> CORNELSON: There's a lot of people that would like to see IF go commercial.
>> PLOTKIN: The question of a company publishing IF into the greater market, man, I hope that
works. >> O'BRIAN: Now a lot of people--some people
think that there is some way to crack the market and sell these games to people who
would be instead of reading books they'll play Interactive Fiction games.
>> SHERWIN: It's fun to go make physical manifestations of your games. It's nice to have something
up on the mantle you can look at and say, "Yes, you know what? I did that. It's not
just a bunch of code on the computer. This is something I can put in my hands."
>> NEPSTAD: Yes. Now, the piece that I didn't really take into account is that I'm a horrible
salesman, right? >> Are sales good?
>> SHERWIN: We--haha. >> NEPSTAD: The type of person that spends
four years coding a computer games is probably, maybe, usually not the same type of person
that can go out and sell that game very effectively, so.
>> SHERWIN: Sales are all right. Considering that you dumped it on the Internet for free,
I was actually really happy with it. I would--I've made 50 copies of Necrotic Drift and we were
able to sell them all through the website. I think I threw the last few on eBay.
>> NEPSTAD: Although, it's really only been available in maybe a dozen shops, those shops
continue to sell it. Even--it's been three years now since I first started selling it.
And they still sell. >> SHERMAN: Light bulb, bing. Let's make brand
new games in the Infocom tradition and sell them to people who want them. And Malinche
was born. >> CORNELSON: The way to get Interactive Fiction
out to more people beyond our community and other communities is marketing.
>> SHERMAN: The perception is from a lot of people's point of view is, "What is it?" And
I think I've spent more time and resources trying to write marketing, facts, what is
it, what is it, how do I--what is it? >> CORNELSON: It's going to require a serious
effort to market the product to audiences in a way where that audience is going to say,
"Yes, I really want to play that." >> SHERMAN: If I'm going to walk over to a
kid who's playing Halo II on his Xbox 360 and say, "Hey kid, want to try a new game?"
"Sure, what do you got?" "Pentari: The Apprentice." "What's it about?" "Well, it's this young
wizard in a wizard's guild and his, you know, his master is captured during his final exams
to become a true sorcerer and you have to go rescue him and then you have to go to this
evil, dark city of mages and conquer an evil queen." "Sounds great, let me try it." And
he sits down at the keyboard, "Hey, did it crash?"
>> ROBERTS: The game is moderated by a computer and where there's not as much throwing of
dice and statistics and so forth. And that seems--I don't know. I don't know how successful
that explanation is. >> DOUGLASS: As currently conceived, it's
just not marketable under a games industry idea of what you're buying. Because the games
industry idea would always say, "You're going to have to add more mazes, or you're going
to have to add unlockable cards that you find and they're going to have to be 50 of them
so that we can layer enough extra stuff on there to keep the interactor busy for an extra
12 hours. Otherwise they're going to feel cheated when they're done."
>> ROBERTS: We'd go to--we went to a couple of computer game conferences, you know, we'd
talked to people and we'd tell them a little about what we were doing. And everyone we
talked to, you know, they'd--we'd get these kind of stunned, blank stares. They'd say,
"Text adventures? What does that have to do with commercial games anymore? That was years
ago." >> PLOTKIN: I had great hopes for the Michael
Berlyn/Cascade Mountain attempt. That was, what, '99? I wish that had worked. That didn't
work at all. >> BERLYN: I would say that the commercial
market for Interactive Fiction is so small that it doesn't warrant an investment of any
financial magnitude at all. I think if you want to do it as a home hobbyist, or you want
to do it as an artist, or you want to do it to prove a point, or you want to do it to
amuse your friends and relatives, that's great. But don't ask me to invest any money in it,
because I did that. And it was a total, abject failure.
>> PLOTKIN: I guess, since the first couple of horribly failed attempts, my opinion has
been, "You know, prove that you have a working company and you're actually going to make
some kind of a profit, and I will write you games from now until the cows come home. I
would love to switch in to doing that full-time." >> BERLYN: Clearly, if you're going to make
something, you have to make sure that there are enough people who are going to buy it
to justify your investment. And we didn't do that well enough or at all. So, I don't
believe there's a market. But does that stop me? Pretty much.
>> MONTFORT: I'm not desperate to find new commercial opportunities for IF. That's an--that's
an understatement. I'm not, you know, really interested in what the marketplace can do
for IF, myself. But I think there's advantages to the form having been through this commercial
phase. There's things that can be learned from what businesses did.
>> REED: Ultimately, it's the same audience that literature has, which is everyone who
can read, you know, young people, old people, people from everywhere.
>> PLOTKIN: And one of these days, someone's going to figure out how to put games in front
of those people. And maybe it'll be for free, and then lots of people will start playing
them, that will be great. Maybe it will be for money, in which case, lots of people will
start paying them, and I'll get some money, and that will also be great.
>> REED: There's a huge, untapped audience of mainly people who are not regular gamers,
who could get into IF, if it was made available to them. Infocom, I know, sold a lot of games
to older people who are viewed as being outside of the current demographic; people in their
50s and 60s. And a lot of those people in the newsgroups now are playing games, but
there's millions of them who, if they knew this stuff existed, would love to play it.
>> THORNTON: At least for me, it's much more fun to know that people are playing it and
sort of enjoying it than--that I get, you know, a couple of nice dinners out every year
from the proceeds of my games. >> SHIOVITZ: And I find it hard to believe
that text adventures are going to sell to kids but, you know, like, if someone wants
to do it, and they succeed, good luck to them. >> WOODS: I'm playing in multiplayer on-line
games, which was, again, this is something I didn't do until a few years ago when I said
some friends and I were considering starting one up. And I didn't actually have any experience
with multiplayer online games, and so, well, I decided to start playing one just to find
out what they were like, because I might be trying to design one, it'd be useful to know
what there is. >> Do you have a preference? I mean, is there
one you prefer to use? >> WOODS: I mostly play Everquest.
>> BLANK: Yes, because I'd been away from it for, you know, for so many years, I really
didn't know until a few years ago how much of this was still around.
>> MERETZKY: I was just maybe at a trade show or something and someone whipped out an early
PDA and that one said, "Look at this." And then it was running Planetfall or Hitchhiker's
Guide or something. >> BLANK: Pretty dumbfounded, actually.
>> ADAMS: The biggest confusion I get nowadays is, "You write Dilbert, don't you?" No, that's
a different Scott Adams. >> MERETZKY: I think it's great. I mean, you
know, I--I'm certainly not losing any royalty on it. And I didn't have a royalty interest
in any of the games. I was just, you know, on straight salary for Infocom. So, you know,
as far as I'm concerned, the more people who can play those games, the better.
>> WOODS: We're starting to get into that stage where there are now people who are in
the computer industry and haven't heard of Adventure, and let alone had it been the seminal
point of their career. >> ADAMS: Scott was putting out a newsletter.
And in it he said, "There's another Scott Adams out there that wrote adventure games
way back in the dawn of history. And if anybody knows him, please let me know because I'm
getting a bunch of his mail." And he was getting my fan mail. I still get his fan mail, so.
>> SCOTT: Do you have much case where you're playing Everquest and someone figures out
they're planning against the guy who invented the genre?
>> WOODS: No. Hasn't come up. It'll be interesting when we finish up here [INDISTINCT]. My guild
has a raid at six o'clock and I intend to just sort of mention at some point that, you
know, what I had spent my afternoon doing and see whether it leads to any conversation.
>> O'BRIAN: I don't know that I even fully understand what keeps me in it.
>> THORNTON: The hardest thing is people saying, "Why the hell would you want to do that? It's
a genre that died in the late 80s." >> SHIOVITZ: It's a--it's a hobby for me and
not a moral cause. >> WELBOURN: You know, I think some people
are, you know, hope, in some corner of their hearts, that IF will be big again. Although
nobody knows how or why. >> SHIOVITZ; I would be sad if people stopped
making them but the cost to entry for making an IF game is very low and so I don't expect
that to be the case. >> SOUSA: With so many people now, getting
on-line, you know, and if that number's going to continue to increase, you're just going
to have a lot more people to draw from and get into it. So I don't think it's ever going
to go away. >> SCHULZ: Art forms are never replaced. They're
never replaced. They're just added to. >> SHERMAN: You know, that's one of the articles
that comes out every day, every--like, every eight months, you know, "Why did the text
games die? Why did--" not just text adventure games, "Why did the adventure game die?"
>> SCHULZ: To say text adventure games are dead is like the same kind of people who say,
right, "Books are dead," right? "Because the movies are so more--so much more popular."
It doesn't--it makes no sense. >> SHERMAN: You know, the truth is, text adventure
games never died. >> MARTINEZ: If you define the interactive
fiction medium as text adventures, then you can say, "Brief, flash-in-the-pan." If you
define the medium as one that like, every other medium, evolves over time and through
the collaboration and recombination of things from a variety of creators, that medium never
died. >> SHERWIN: When I knew that it was possible
to make text games, I've never looked back. It's something I want to do for my whole life.
It was an itch that I didn't know that I had until I started scratching it. Now it won't
go away. It's a rash, I guess. >> SCOTT: So that was the long version of
Get Lamp. The--like I said, the--there's an interactive version where you would have had
each of those, that's why it feels kind of like a sort of ending. It had to be an ending
or not quite an ending. Anyway. [PAUSE] These are two people who I'd interview-scheduled
with, who I lost before I got the chance to. [PAUSE] All right. Okay. So, yes, it's a two-DVD
set. There's actually a full episode on nothing but Infocom which actually I really like.
And it's more of what people think of it as standard documentary but if you saw it you'd
be like "Oh, that's great. You told the story of Infocom." What about the rest of text adventure?
So, that's what that one is. So, and I do have them for sale here if people want to
pick up a copy. With the two-DVD and all the rest of the stuff, it's--I like it and of
course, as you saw it, it's fully subtitled. I got a thing about that. I get angry if it's
not subtitled nowadays. Because it's like it's free, essentially. If anybody has any
questions or comments, I do want to mention that I'm not going to make them stand up here
but Mr. Blank and Mr. Woods are here in the audience, too. And I really appreciate that,
I haven't' seen Mr. Blank since I've interviewed him something like, four years ago. So, that's
great. So, if anyone has any questions or comments or whatever, I'll answer. Yes.
>> In the film they've mentioned that [INDISTINCT] encountered--one of the participants on there
mentioned that he's happy to see people still playing games.
>> Why don't you talk up there and I'll try to take the microphone. If your question's
more than 10 words, people would really appreciate. >> Yes, absolutely. So one of the--in the
film, one of the participants mentioned that he's happy to see Infocom games still being
played. And since Infocom is bankrupt, did someone pick up the IP for that? And is...
>> SCOTT: They [INDISTINCT] that by accident. No mic?
>> No, that's not on I guess. >> SCOTT: There's no whatever [INDISTINCT]
>> [INDISTINCT] better. >> SCOTT: Okay.
>> You have to [INDISTINCT] this one side. >> SCOTT: Okay. Well, oh, that's terrible.
How will I get by? Where's my latte? The--okay. So, currently Infocom IP is owned by Active-Vision.
The--certain Infocom trademarks are owned by a guy named Pete, who is up--if somebody
who wants to write Infocom games and call them Infocom, he'll license it to you, but
they actually have lapsed some of the trademarks. So, Zork lapsed but Leather Goddesses of Phobos,
they renewed. I don't get it either. I'm sorry. Whatever. But it--Active-Vision owns it, right?
Active-Vision licensed it to something called--I think it was Legends of Zork which was like
a click-through adventure game that you can play now. So, they still own it. They'll still
defend it. They still get cranky if you send out copies regardless of what Steve tells
you. Steve's all behind it but Steve's not going to be your final sign off, so. Yes?
>> So there's--nobody seemed to mention of the unit reality games, which are very hot
today as the successor. >> SCOTT: Nobody mentioned [INDISTINCT] reality
game? Okay. >> Did they ever mention it? Or they just--I
thought there was often more about it. >> SCOTT: There's a lot of contemporary space
things that are not mentioned in this movie because then it would be two hours long. And
I figured the hardest part of the movie was trying to get a--you know, like I said there
was no text-adventure movie. Now, I've made the last one. And the thing is, it's saddled
with several major vectors that are a problem. It has to flow reasonably well. It also has
to cover subjects that are ethereal and mental and it has to kind of feel like it gave justice
to older subjects. And the problem is, for instance, it doesn't really mention MMOs except
for hilariously, right? And it doesn't mention augmented reality games, or alternate reality
games or any of that stuff because, A, I didn't have Jane McGonagall's home number yet. And
also, I just thought that it was like--I felt like--you'll notice this movie--this movie
really gives you a lot of credit as a viewer, right? The more I've watched them, I'm like,
"Wow", like, when you watch a lot of like documentaries like on Discovery. It's like,
"Dude was attacked by a bear. Here's the bear. This is the guy. There's the bear again. The
guy is doing this thing. The bear--we're going to break to a commercial. We come back. The
guy is being attacked by a bear." And you're like "Wow," I can watch it with the sound
off and get it, right? This film, blink it and you miss it. You are--you are in the woods--you're
literally in the woods with cavers. And so, there was like--there's a lot of that. And
so one of the things I did that didn't take it for granted was you might then go, knowing
all these, "I will now move into contemporary space and I will understand from these where
these all comes from. I'll have a better grip of it. I didn't feel like I needed to finally
connect the dots." That's the only reason why. Because now, there are so many gaming
documentaries that are just in contemporary and I was like, "Nobody's really, you know,
tracked down the Infocom guys and Scott Adams and put them all together in a movie." So,
at least we can see what their take on things was. That was--that was the thinking. Yes
in the back. I'll just repeat the question. >> It's a bolt to board systems and you've
done text adventures. Is there anything next? >> SCOTT: Yes. Okay. Sorry. Hey, you're right.
>> You've done a bulleting board systems. >> SCOTT: Okay. I've done bulletin board systems.
I've done text adventures. Am I going to do anything next? Yes. I'm actually relatively
poor although this movie does pay for my current existence which is pretty hilarious in the
scheme of independent film that makes me Spielberg. But I would like to do three at once next.
Stick with me. The--there's three technical documentaries, I found making these previous
ones. Each one took about four years, and the biggest thing was travel. So, I'm doing
a kick-starter very shortly for $100,000 which will already get some attention, I'm sure.
And it's going to be three films. And I've been kind of leaking it to Q&A for a while,
so, I'll just tell you. The first one would be on tape. And in the same scheme as bulletin
board systems and text-adventures, the next question is how could that possibly be interesting?
And I like that challenge. That means nobody else is doing it. So, this would be about
audio, video and magnetic tape, and it's meaning in our history and the loss of memory and
the cultures that lived on tape and so on. So, that's tape. Tape is the big one. The
one that I'd--I'm also looking to do is one on arcades. And that would be a podcast series.
Those would be little tiny 10 to 15-minute arcade-esque documentaries because we do stuff
about the games. We have all seen Pacman moving slowly on a screen while someone tells you
video games were fun. But there's not a whole lot of things about those places and the fact
that, you know, people were like, "Well, what would your arcade documentary podcast series
thing cover?" I'm like "Well, we'd start at 17th century automaton lounges." At this point,
they're like "What," up through the MAME. So, I'm like, you know, just this idea that
for years, for hundreds of years, we have willingly moved into small rooms and paid
somebody to let us have fun with machines. Why? Why do we do that? So, that would be
arcade. My own arcadedocumentary.com. And the third one would be on the 6502 chip. Yes,
I'm at Google. So, welcome to Google. What? Yes. So, yes, programmers, I want to make
a movie that actually makes assembly language makes sense. That it's challenge, and talk
to people like, you know, Bill Budge and John Romero who do 6502 programming about the unique
natures of that and Jeri Ellsworth, who's a friend, and talk about...
>> Bill Budge's doing that. >> SCOTT: Who does?
>> Bill Budge. >> SCOTT: Yes. I know he works here. I was
going to go bother him at the game developer's conference, and I decided it was too creepy.
I figured I'd wait. >> Where is Bill Budge?
>> SCOTT: Where is he? He--you know it's a good question. I know where he is but this
is why I want to get the funding very soon. I'd go talk to Chuck very soon because I have
a little problem with my movies. But anyway, so, those are the three. And I would put them
together because it's easier for me to sometimes interview somebody about portions of both
because I could talk to an arcade game programmer who can tell me about arcade spaces but who'll
also tell me about programming, perhaps, not as much as about tape but maybe. Anyway, so,
there you go. Now, you know. Those are my three because I feel like I don't know how
many more years I want to do this. And I'd rather just do one big, mega film craziness.
Once I will not do, people want me do ham radio, no, demo scene, no. There was a few
that were kind of weird. A few people were unhappy because they want me to cover their
software company like I covered these software companies and, no. But that's the life that
you're going to live when you make a choice. These are all done by one guy, right? This
is, one guy made this film. So, that's it. I'm the sound. I'm the lighting. I'm the questioner.
I'm the editor. I'm the package designer. I am the Q&A answerer. You know, I'm everything
you can imagine. So, it's--that's, you know, people were like, "You should have gone more
to Europe." I'm like, "Maybe you should have gone more to Europe." I was--I happen to be
called in for a speech that I gave in England. And that's why I could interview Richard Bartle.
You know, it was like "Hey, Richard Bartle. Could you come over?" And otherwise, I would
have never gotten this Richard Bartle. And he willingly came which was nice of him. All
right. Are there any other question? Yes? >> Did you try to interview Graham Nelson?
>> SCOTT: Yes, I tried to interview Graham Nelson. And Emily Short for anybody who cares
about that. This is being streamed. Emily Short said no. Oh, I'm not afraid to say this,
I guess. Emily Short said no. I said okay. "How about if I send you written questions?
You submit me written answers. And you appear on a screen answering them." "No." Graham
Nelson didn't even bother to respond through proxy. Even Will Crowther responded through
proxies, and said "No." And before anyone goes, "Why did Will Crowder not go in this?"
And the answer is Will Crowther does not look back at this. Literally, it's like saying,
"Dude, how'd you like kindergarten?" And, you know, he's just--he just doesn't see--you
know. He created the freaking ARPAnet, and people were like, "Remember that little screensaver
you programmed when you were in high school?" I mean, it feels like that to him. And so
when his--all of his interviews about it, he'll talk about it but he doesn't go crazy
talking about that time. So, I said, "You know what? I'm not going to show up at this
guy's house." You know--you know what this movie did not need, blurry footage of him
running to his car. I like to think, this is my general approach. I like to think I
can have dinner with pretty much everyone in the movie and have them feel comfortable
eating dinner with me because they feel like I did right by them. I don't think that a
movie like this, especially this, should not use people like they're something. So, yes,
so, there's a few people who declined like, Emily Short, Graham Nelson, one of the--a
couple of the Infocom people didn't have the time or these things didn't work out and so
on. So, you know, it happens. So, before you, you.
>> Did you thank Will Crowther at the end, didn't you?
>> SCOTT: Yes. I thank Will Crowther. >> Did he help in at all?
>> SCOTT: Yes, he made Adventure. Yes, thanks man. High five. High two. Yes, I mean that
was it. It was like thanks for Will Crowther for doing it, basically, and for not getting
ticked off that I still stuck a picture in there. I made sure that picture was as obscure,
as old as possible. I mean, I have new pictures of him and I have pictures of him from when
he was a caver. But I thought, you know, if he's not comfortable at being in this movie,
I'm not going to make really personal, identifiable photos of the guy. So, you know, I just said,
you know, "I'm going to thank him because he did this," like, I thank you for do also
doing it. The coins are numbered individually. And I have coin number two because I gave
Mr. Woods coin number one. I figured he deserved it more. There was another question. Yes.
You. >> In terms of other languages, do you have
any idea how popular the interactive games were, let's say, in Chinese, German, Indian,
or Spanish, or anything? >> SCOTT: Questions about alternate scenes
of other languages of interactive fiction. And I have spoken with a Spanish IF clique,
some level of German, some level of--well, here's the thing--English, right? British-English.
There's a whole scene there that I only somewhat cover because I just didn't think I can do
them justice. I'd rather do this and someone go, "It's like that but we did this and this."
I'd rather be a difference, a delta. And so, there are these other scenes, and I also have
it. There's also this awesome adult interactive fiction group that's been around for like
15 years. And the only one who would talk to me at all from it was the really, the beautifully
cynical Adam who's in there, he's the balding guy, who every time--it's just--it's cut this
way--every time you see him, he says something cynical and depressing about text adventures.
So, he's the one who's like mazes, kill me now, or yes, why would I sell it? I could
maybe make money for a dinner and everything else. And, you know, he's made all these legitimate,
well, you know what I'm saying, legitimate, you know, safe for work text adventures but
he's also the creator of Stiffy Makane and The Undiscovered Country. But the rest of
them were like, "Good work, keep going, keep going back up." So that--there's a bit--there's
a bit of that going on. So, okay, missed that scene too. So, it's like this but a little
different. End of the questions? Yes. >> [INDISTINCT]
>> SCOTT: This--okay. I've been asked a lot of stuff about like, text adventures as a
business which is what you're asking like, is there models and stuff that might work
for text adventures? This been, you know, it's a puzzler. And the thing is--the biggest
problem with it is that and then bear in mind again I'm an outside observer, technically.
I was embedded with text adventures for years. But I also want to make clear I'm outsider
in many ways. First of all, I want to say that Andrew Plotkin, who's that dude with
the huge glasses and the furry hair, did a kick-starter last year to say, "Let me stop
working and I will create a new text adventure for the iPhone and I will release the tool
kit I've been developing to make it. And I will release it for sale on the iPhone." And
he asked for--I think it was, I want to say he asked for $20,000 or $15,000 for this.
And he got $31,000. So, he's doing that full time right now. So, he's doing it, right?
He's living the dream. And his take was iPhone text adventure, right? That was his approach.
But in the whole, on the whole, I mean, bear in mind also, Andrew Plotkin is a freaking
master, right? He's like the best of the best in terms of contemporary interactive fiction
authors, absolutely the best. So, this is a big deal and when he has a huge following
both in and out of the community. So, he was able to do this. The problem with text adventures
is that there is a galactically huge-sized, massive, fully playable archive of them, that
is, every bit as compelling and well-made as anything you would get now. It is absolutely
the case that you can play these fantastic games that come out for free every year that
are as good as anything. And the amount of work to make it a little better or reach a
little more is really a huge burden. And that what's killing that idea to which as you might
have hopefully gleamed from that. Some of them are perfectly fine with. They're delighted.
They're like, "Whatever. Whatever. I don't need that anymore. I don't need people lying
to sell me text adventures. Go ahead and play them." So, like on the iPad, you can download
FRAX. And FRAX comes with, like, 30 games that are going to eat your month, that are
great in every single way. I mean--and that's their problem. Their problem is the old product
is as good, it's like selling oranges and the oranges from forever, just as great.
>> It's two minutes to the video conference and the video taping in the next room.
>> SCOTT: Okay. All right. So, we can go either way. And so was there any other...?
>> Sir, you think we could hire that guy to help me write our tech documentation because
[INDISTINCT] online stuff to find the right answer?
>> SCOTT: Inside joke about technical writing. All right. Is there? Yes, sir.
>> There's a subgenre text adventures--graphical text adventures that started with [INDISTINCT]?
Did you do any interviewing or exploring that? >> SCOTT: Did I just--did I--did I cover graphical
text adventures? Or did I do any interviewing? I certainly--you're right, there's 120 hours
of raw footage, right, which became this movie. Certainly some people would go a little bit
into graphical adventures or discuss Sierra. Sierra's a really a big one. But I really
felt I wanted to cover text adventures strongest. I will release all of the raw footage, checking
it for somebody saying something really truly awful, you know, unto archive.org. So I always
do that anyway. The movies are Creative Commons licensed anyway, right? I had a--I had a group
rip it and put it on the Pirate Bay, and they did it wrong, like they--because it's that
interactive thing--it's multiple chapters. They got the order wrong. So I wrote a big
note about, like, "Thanks but you got it wrong. Here's the actual chapter, order. Could you
rip in that way instead?" And they went, "Oh my god. I'm sorry." And they ripped it again
and released a repack and everything else. And this totally made the torrent community
flip out and I sold, like, dozens and dozens in, like, two days because they were like,
"Oh my God." This guy, "Oh my God." And the NFO was really, really positive. Its' like,
"Jason," you know, it's got the greatest phrase ever because bear in my mind, right? This
is my second big movie, right? Ever. I mean, previously, that was student films. And it
says in the thing, "As is typical with Jason Scott Productions." It--good trend management.
And yes, you had one. >> Yes. There was a--one of the statements
that [INDISTINCT] was that like, "IF games now is pretty much made by the 200 authors
and released to the 200 authors." >> SCOTT: Yes, that's one cynical person's
response is that there are 200 authors making games for 200 authors. That's not quite true.
>> I wonder what it stands like? People actually really believe that or is that just a written
exaggeration. >> SCOTT: What I tried to do there is I tried
to do--whenever I do these things, right? I mean, there's always that balance between
my narrative voice and my advocations and what the group thinks. So, there's also documenting,
"Here's the various opinions on that." And you could see some people like, "Nobody pays
attentions to us." Another people like, "These are incredible. Everyone loves us." Well,
I think what it comes down to is that, maybe once every year, really hungry areas like
read-it and stuff, somebody will link to it. And they'll gain just enough passers-by as
it go, "Whoa. Adventure games." And they go to it, and they play it and would "Whoa. These
are [INDISTINCT] well made. Whoa." And so, that happens. I think that it's a tough sell.
I think--I always think adventure games are a tough sell, right? I mean, but there --some
of the modern ones are really, really well-made and some of them are really unusual. For instance,
I feel like, "Well Jason, what's a good modern one da-da-da?" Right? There's two that I always
recommend to people. The first one is called Futopia. It came out in 1999. It takes about
an hour and a half to play and when you finish it, you are emotionally affected. Yet, you
can't not win. Right? You played an hour and a half, and you're like "huh." You have to
close your door and your... And then, there's Lost Pig which won, I think, a year and a
half, two years ago, you are--you are an Orc and you've lost your pig. And the pig has
gone down into this cave and now you're in the cave. You fell in the cave to get the
pig. Now, you have to get the pig. So, it takes you like a typical adventure game forever
to figure out how to rescue yourself and the pig. During which--this is the brilliant part;
first of all, it talks to you like an Orc. So, it's like, "See thing with light. Not
sure where that goes, kind of scary. Very strange. You pull thing, and thing moves other
thing. Now, thing goes away. Thing can go now." And so, you've got to negotiate what
this guy is saying. And I think what the best part to me is the pig is always there, like,
if you try to grab it, it slips out of your way. But the pig follows you the whole time
you're trying to rest--to get the pig. In fact, not too much, minor spoiler but at one
point, the pig helps you. Like the pig's like--and that helps you move on to the next thing.
So, there's Lost Pig. And this is like a contemporary game that came up two years ago that I think
is just brilliant. It won the ZZ awards, which are the--they just had them, the yearly awards
to who have made the best games of the past year which they give away and they're really
amazing. So anyway, I'm saying it's still vibrant but it's tough. I mean, a lot of people
start the game up and they're like, "This is awesome." And about 15 minutes later, they're
like "Oh. Look at this YouTube video." And the story's over. And, you know, so that's
the problem. But I think, there's--I think there's--I mean I was--I'm--you know, the
question is that one might have is "Are you happy you've spent four years of this?" Absolutely.
Absolutely. This is like--this is like, I get to carry Zeus's water on his way to the
podium to like, send off some lightning bolt. So I'm like, "Oh yeah. This is great. I'm
a roadie for Zeus." So, that's for me. It's like, "All this wonderful people who affected
me." I mean, I'm only 40 which means that, you know, I mean, I played this thing with
my cousin when I was, you know, 11 or 12. I played Adventure with my cousin. And so
for me this is "Yehey." Anyway, I think we're pretty much out of time. So, wonderful. Thank
you so much for sticking through it.