Infocom

Jason Scott of archive.org has just uploaded Infocom's source code, and keeps adding a bunch of other game source. I've made an easy script to get all the text adventures; if you want Quake or whatever, go grab that yourself.

#!/bin/zsh
for repo in abyss amfv arthur ballyhoo beyondzork borderzone bureaucracy checkpoint colossalcaveadventure cutthroats deadline enchanter hitchhikersguide hollywoodhijinx infidel infocom-sampler journey leathergoddesses leathergoddesses-gold lurkinghorror minizork-1982 minizork-1987 minizork2-1988 moonmist nordandbert planetfall plunderedhearts restaurant seastalker sherlock shogun softporn sorcerer spellbreaker starcross stationfall suspect suspended trinity txtelite wishbringer witness zork zork-german zork1 zork2 zork3 zorkzero zork-fortran zork-mdl zork-1; do
echo $repo
git clone https://github.com/historicalsource/$repo.git
done

The ZIL (Z-Machine Implementation Language) code is not too weird a LISP variant, and I expect there to be good compilers or translators to modern Scheme pretty soon; if necessary I'll write one. Many of the others are written in, preposterously, FORTRAN or C, easily two of the worst possible languages to do text-manipulation and abstract data structures in.

Zarf's post mentions a working ZIL compiler, ZILF.

You may also like Infocom: The Documentary and The Infocom Cabinet

As a large database of high-quality, production game source, this is a treasure trove for anyone who makes games. Read these and figure out how to do what they did.

I'm also amused by the icon, The Source came and went from the online services world just as I was getting into BBSing. I had as I recall a free couple months so I didn't have to pay the signup fee, but it was stupidly expensive per hour (Source was maybe $10/hour? Delphi was $20 for 20 hours per month, and not much more for overtime), and then shut down soon after.

All the Streaming Video

In which I compare some of the thousands of streaming media services:

  • Netflix: $13/mo for adult content: Love, Death & Robots, Bordertown, dozens of other crime dramas, adult comedies, and a huge backlog of content. In anime they have a bunch of current series, the Godzilla anime, classic Robotech (goddamn I still hate Minmei), and this summer they're replaying Neon Genesis Evangelion. Best media player of any streaming service. One caveat is that because Apple won't guarantee secure HDMI out on Airplay devices anymore, Netflix took down their Airplay support; I watch on a PS3 or desktop in Chrome, so this doesn't affect me, but some people will have to change how they watch it.
  • Amazon: $120/year for adult content: Bosch, The Tick, The Man in the High Castle, The Americans, and a huge backlog of (mostly shitty) movies for free. Second-worst media player I've ever seen, I scream obscenities at Amazon every time I watch something distractedly and want to go back 1 minute. I can't quit, anyway, I rely on Prime too much.
  • Disney+ (November): $7/mo for kids shows, mostly Marvel, Star Wars, Disney/Pixar (Dixar), and 512 seasons of the fucking Simpsons, which hasn't been funny since it left Tracey Ullman's Show. Not much new content, almost nothing for adults to watch.
  • Apple+: Unknown date & pricing. G-rated, mostly mainstream garbage content from what we've seen. Steven Spielberg should just find a rest home in Florida, he won't live long enough for the flooding to be a problem. If Apple makes it free with Apple Music, I'll take a look and mock the shows, but I expect nothing of interest to an adult.
  • CBS All Access: $10/mo for STD, er, Star Trek Discovery, and a lot of mainstream garbage content.
  • Twitch: "Free" with a shitload of ads; not just games, there are several networks streaming content, like Carl Sagan's Cosmos, ShoutFactory playing MST3K, The Prisoner, classic (good) Dr Who, Thunderbirds Are Go, and more. I would happily pay Twitch to get rid of ads.
  • Crunchyroll: $8/mo for currently-streaming anime. Second-best media player and queue manager. Really no longer a high value compared to Netflix and Amazon's anime selections, but sometimes there's new stuff you can only reasonably get on Crunchy. Partnered with/part of VRV, which has a bunch of other nerd media services, but the VRV player is the worst thing I've ever seen, really unusable, and the VRV staff are jackasses.
  • Hulu: $12/mo for "no ads" which has quite a lot of ads before and after shows, but at least doesn't have them in the show. Moderately shitty video player. Very poor new content, lots of old TV shows; Rockford Files was great but it's not worth $12/mo.
  • HBO Now: $15/mo. Usually has 2 current new shows at any time, a moderate amount of older shows and (often good) movies. Only really valuable for brief binges, then disable it; you'd quickly run out of content if you kept it subscribed. Ought to be half the price.
  • Criterion: $11/mo or $100/year. I haven't tried this yet, but I really should, they have dozens of old samurai movies and thrillers, which alone would pay for it. Their new content is very very limited, since good movies mostly stopped being made in the 1990s. There's a "channel" there of Guillermo del Toro talking about classic movies and then you watch the movie! OK, this is next month's media activity for me.
  • Youtube: Did you know Youtube had original content and a paid service? Well, they do, but nobody uses it.

Given this, if you're over 18, you should have Netflix and Amazon, and bang Criterion and HBO Now on the side once in a while. If you like old nerd media and current game streaming, watch Twitch. If you have kids, Disney+ and Crunchyroll are great deals. There's very narrow interest areas for the others.

On top of which, I check out iTunes Movies every month for their deals; never pay full price. This month I got Lawnmower Man (director's cut!), The Crow, and Equilibrium for under $8 each, all of which I can rewatch endlessly in actual HD, better than any streaming service.

Keep on Rockin' in Wednesday Music

Lost Treasure

In 1979, I learned to program in BASIC on a TRS-80 Model I. Sometime in the next year, I read one of my first programming books:

I played Monster Chase and Lost Treasure, modified them extensively, and combined them, so the cave on the island had a monster chase to reach the exit. I recall having problems getting Starship Alpha and Devil's Dungeon to work, but they joined my software library eventually.

One of my earliest and happiest programming memories was sitting at the dining room table, reading Monster Chase, and writing out a smarter movement system and obstacles in a notebook; at the time the only computers were at school, so I wrote code on paper and typed them in later.

So when I found the book again on archive.org last night, I was very excited, and had to reimplement it. I actually typed this into Pythonista on my phone with the PDF open on an iPad, only moved it to the computer to do some final cleanup and upload it.

The book suggests some modifications, and I did some minor ones: Lowered the movement error to 10%, and risk of shark attack to 10%, rising by 1.5x rather than a flat +50% each time; being anywhere near the island edge killed you too often in the original. I also don't move you out of the water automatically, that should cost a turn.

I realized in converting it that I hate, hate, hate Row,Column coordinates instead of Cartesian X,Y; tons of mainframe-era computing resources used Row,Column, and you can still see it in some APIs like Curses. Note that the original program is 74 lines, mine's 214; BASIC is a terrible language, but it's terse.

I could adapt this into another doorgame for my Mystic Dungeon BBS, but I'm not sure what the multiplayer aspect would be, and it has limited replayability without doing some randomization.