Monday, September 24, 2018

Myst, 25 years old

The history books say that Myst was originally released for Mac and Windows on September 24th, 1993. Or, at least, that's what Wikipedia and Mobygames say. Let's call it accurate for the purposes of wearing the party hat.
The anniversary collectible box-set is still in progress, but all the games are now available on GOG -- including Myst 3 and 4, which were out of print until now. As I write this, Myst 3 and 4 have not yet appeared on Steam, but Cyan indicated (in a KS update) that those games should be out for general release today. (KS backers have already received Steam keys, and I've replayed a bit of Myst 4 on Steam already.)
Fans should also take a look at the Myst community rewards page, which has some of the downloadable goodies that were promised as stretch goals. These include 3D printable models, scans of concept art, and design documents.

Here's one of the 3D models, which I had printed via Shapeways. If you want a copy, you should use my cleaned-up model. I printed it in steel, 8 cm high; cost me $100.
Another anniversary announcement: Mysterium, the Myst fan convention, is planning a Global Mysterium Day -- people will organize local fan get-togethers in as many cities as possible. The date is not set, probably spring of 2019 sometime. There's a mailing list, particularly if you're interested in hosting.
Mysterium itself will no doubt be back with its regular convention in late summer.
And finally, let me give a quick boost to The Five Cores Remastered, a Kickstarter which is now in its final day. The Five Cores was a Myst-inspired low-budget adventure game from 2012. The author now plans to update it to the Unreal engine, improve puzzles, make the environment more dynamic, and generally improve things.
I never played the original release -- I didn't have a decent Windows machine in 2012. So I'm excited about having a new "as it was meant to be" version available. As I write this, the Kickstarter is barely $100 short of its goal, so let's not let that wipe out.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Memory Blocks at Different Games 2018

Memory Blocks, the Twine anthology game I mentioned a while back, is showing at the Different Games Arcade! That's the weekend of Oct 13 in Worcester, MA.
Some memories fade. Some memories break. Some memories outlive us.
I have a small chapter in Memory Blocks, but there are many other chapters by a whole bunch of cool people. Plus music, art, and overall production by Ghoulnoise.
I see a bunch of cool people showing games and speaking at Different Games, so I expect it will be a good time. I'll be hanging around, so I'll see you there, if you're there! Look for the green jacket.
(Will I have a new IF work of my own to show off? Depends whether I get more done on the puzzles, the story, or the UI in the next five weeks...)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Incluing and the unreliable narrator: Unavowed's cold open

Usually when I write a game design post, I am careful to explain that I'm not writing a review; I'm talking about specific areas of the game's design. So, you know, when I spend paragraphs judging the player's shadow in The Witness, I'm not panning the whole game.
So that whole disclaimer? Consider it written, because in this post I am going to talk about the first two minutes of Wadjet Eye's new adventure game Unavowed. That's how much of the game I have played to date. Technically six minutes, because I played the opening three times over. Research!
(I am absolutely going to play Unavowed. But openings are their own topic, and I reacted so strongly to this one that it gets its own blog post.)
This is a spoiler, but, look, it's a spoiler for literally the first thing that happens. If you want to stop reading here, no sweat. Play the game, I hear it's good.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A question about Magic the Gathering rules timing

Not a question about card effect timing, but about the timing of the development of the rules!
This nifty article just came orbiting through my Twitter stream, about the history of Magic's rules. It has some delightful quotes:
The timing of spells is occasionally rather tricky. -- MtG rules, Revised, April 1994
Usually, figuring out what happens first in Magic is pretty easy. -- MtG rules, Fourth Edition, April 1995
However, I want to ask about this claim from the blog post:
Which takes us to the end of our journey, 5th edition. 5th was released in march 1997, and at this time professional magic tournaments was thriving. Hence, any ambiguity of the previous rules had been cleaned up or removed. The rules for timing however were more complex than ever.
-- Magnus de Laval, blog post, August 2014
You know what else happened that month? The release of the first big MtG videogame. (MicroProse, March 1997.)
The videogame included most of the cards through Fourth Edition, but operated under the brand-new 5thE rules:
That's because in Shandalar, the rules used are the official interpretations supplied by Wizards of the Coast. These up-to-date rules are ruthlessly enforced, and there is no room for negotiation, argument, intimidation of your opponent, or weaseling your way through loopholes.
Tough luck, all you whiny rules lawyers.
This version of Magic: The Gathering enforces the official Fifth Edition rules.
-- MtG game manual, MicroProse, 1997
I'm not sure when development started on the game. But in 1996 and 1997, the WOTC designers must fielded a steady stream of haggard MicroProse developers asking "But how do you resolve this corner case? How do the timing rules really work?"
My long-held theory is that the clarifications and cleanups of 5thE are not so much because of the tournaments, but rather because of the effort of making the videogame behave consistently.
If you've played any modern board/card game with a computer implementation, like Ascension or RFTG, you know that the computer version quickly becomes "the real version" in your head. The easiest way to answer rules questions at Game Night is to say "The videogame does it this way." So my gut feeling is that MtG must have been the first big example of this.
But I don't know for sure. I only played a bit of MtG in the earliest days; I was never involved with the tournament scene.
Can anybody say more about this development history?
The next MtG rules update, Sixth Edition (April 1999), completely revamped the timing algorithm. Which we can fairly call an algorithm at that point! 6thE spell resolution uses a "stack", in the programming sense. So the computer paradigm obviously had an influence on its development. But that's a couple of years after the change I'm asking about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

IF in pop culture and back again (guest post at sub-Q)

I wax slightly rhapsodic over at sub-Q Magazine.
I just noticed an amusing synchrony. In the late 1970s, when Crowther and then Woods were writing the first parser game, a New Wave SF writer named George R. R. Martin was writing short stories about far-future humanity among the Thousand Worlds. I, very young, was a fan of both. (Nightflyers, 1980, is still a favorite story of mine.) Heliopause was inspired, in part, by Martin’s sense of unbounded human potential set against even vaster, time-swallowing depths of space.

Another bit of news: Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna are organizing a collaborative IF game in honor of Anchorhead.
A strong female character wanders the halls of a decrepit mansion. Her husband is in danger. She has to help him. Each room into which she points her flickering flashlight teems with arcane danger and unspeakable history. Each room has been designed and written by a different author.
They note that the initial response has been "very very positive", so why not make their life even harder by volunteering to write a room yourself? Sign up by July 6th.
You can, of course, buy Anchorhead itself on Steam or Itch.

Finally: remember, as if you could forget, that Meanwhile and Hadean Lands are both on sale on Steam (and also on until July 5th.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Meanwhile and Hadean Lands: the summer sale!

That time has come around again: the time when you buy a stack of exciting games which you always meant to try!
(Or "that time when your to-play stack grows out of control", but I shouldn't lead with that, should I...)
What I mean is: Meanwhile and Hadean Lands are both discounted for the Steam Summer Sale! 50% off on Meanwhile, 25% off on HL. The sale runs for two weeks, as is Steam's invariable habit.
If you like your platforms independent and scratchy, both games are also on sale at Itch.IO. Both 50% off there, so that's a bonus for HL fans.
I suspect that most of my regular blog-readers already own both games -- thank you! But this is a fine time to spread the word about interactive fiction and experimental dynamic narrative. You don't even have to say "interactive fiction and experimental dynamic narrative". Just tell your friends about the wacky text games. One of them is illustrated! It's an unbeatable deal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Heliopause, Memory Blocks

Announcements time!
Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home, a far-future parser IF piece, has been published by sub-Q magazine!
Heliopause isn't a new work -- I originally wrote it for @party in 2010. It's quite short, but I've always been rather proud of it. My thanks to Stewart Baker for offering to reprint it.
Speaking of sub-Q, I should mention that Anya DeNiro wrote an editorial there about my (even older) short game The Space Under the Window.
Keep an eye out for the next sub-Q editorial, written by me! That will be appearing next week.
Some memories fade, some memories break, and some memories outlive us.
It's Mysterious, so I'll just say that it's a Twine anthology project to which I contributed a small chapter. Organized by Priscilla Snow (also of Bravemule). Coming in September.