All of us in the RG (this is what our return address stamp says) household have been unwell this week. I initially blamed food poisoning but am now leaning toward some malevolent virus. For some reason, it hit the parents far harder than the toddler, though he has had it longer. In any case, I haven’t been able to concentrate on much sustained reading. It’s probably easier to read with a headache than with terrible stomach distress, though the involuntary caffeine withdrawal I went through earlier this week left me with what are undeniably the worst headaches in memory.
Since my last few posts have been about interactive fiction, an enthusiasm I tend to revive around the time of the annual competition, I will write a few words about Mike Roberts’s Perdition’s Flames (1993). I had students in an introduction to literature class at Georgia Tech write a brief IF interpretation of some the things we had been reading in class, and I suppose what I had in mind as the ideal result would have been something with the same sense of humor and technical facility seen in Roberts’s Return to Ditch Day, though I did realize at the time that it was an unrealistic expectation.
Though I didn’t finish his Snowquest, the likely winner of this year’s Interactive Fiction competition, I did play (and finish, without hints, albeit one point shy of perfect) Eric Eve’s The Elysium Enigma recently. In fact, I mostly finished it while the Florida-LSU game was on in the background on Saturday night, though I don’t remember who won. (The following discussion spoils the game completely.) You play a mildly dim imperial functionary sent to raise the flag on a backwater planet.
I’ve now played most of the entries in this year’s interactive fiction competition. I didn’t play the windows games because I don’t use that platform anymore (and I never played them when I did, to be honest). Nor did I play the Adrift games, though they might well have worked with Spatterlight. I guess I have an unreasoning prejudice. The first IF I played was Deadline on the Commodore 64, bought at a Kmart when I didn’t know what it was or what to expect.
I recently finished this entry in the most recent Interactive Fiction competition. The game, written by Andrew Plotkin, noted IF auteur, under the pseudonym Edgar O. Weyrd (anagram of “Edward Gorey”), has two section: the first is the best IF-implementation of a Rhem-like game I’ve ever played. While nowhere near as complex or difficult as the aforementioned graphical puzzlers, which I first learned about from Plotkin’s reviews of, it is tricky.
Nick Montfort, who wrote the (or at least “a”) book on interactive fiction, has recently released Book and Volume, which is set in nTopia, has allusions ranging from Pynchon to Gygax, and feels very PKD–I mean that neutrally. My discussion is going to include some mild spoilers. I should begin by noting that I’m not sure that I’ve finished the game in terms of achieving the optimal or at least all of the potential outcomes.
I began Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina while waiting on some comforters to wash and dry last night. Just so you know, “spoilers” are coming. Early in the game, you find the following written on a blackboard: 11426 34041 + 6505 2431 ------------------ 21234 42022 I thought–and immediately rejected–that this might be base-related. Why I rejected it, I don’t know, as, you may guess, that’s in fact what’s happening here. But anyway, you find another sheet of paper with “10612” written on it, indicating that it’s the code to the junction box which you can use to turn on power to the shopping mall you’re at after-hours on Christmas Eve in a desperate attempt to buy the aforementioned ballerina for your daughter.
From William Noyes’ “Paranoia. A Study of the Evolution of Systematized Delusions of Grandeur.” The American Journal of Psychology 2.3 (May, 1889): 349-375. A quote from his writings: Water contains just the same subtle qualities today as it did when Christ changed the water into wine at the marriage of Cana. But we should be careful how we use it, for if you mix with it other than good thoughts and thankfulness, it will produce no wine in your jar, but, on the contrary, something very much resembling poison it its action.
I’m seriously considering asking students to create an Inform project for my “Addiction and Necessity” Introduction to Literature course next semester. I haven’t yet done much research into whether anyone else has tried this particular pedagogical gambit, but I think it could prove interesting. A long-standing wish is to create an enter an interactive fiction into the annual contest. I missed this year’s, but I might still make the Spring Thing.