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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.

Elder Scrolls: Blades Actual Play Notes

Controls kinda suck. Movement in landscape is OK, but the camera is often stuck forward, waiting for a tap to move to. I want to disable tap-to-move so I can just use a right virtual stick to control the camera. Everything in portrait is awful, tap tap tap to inch along forward because I can't see far enough ahead to hit the ground.

Combat is interesting. Tap-release with a full ring and you get a critical hit. Shield works OK for defense, until you meet heavy weapons foes who smash it down. Spells are fine, but you have to be careful to use them when you won't be interrupted. I'm using Dodging Strike to open and give me defense, then if they're slow I can cast, if not I shield up until they strike and then I cast. Fireball nukes most enemies in one shot, Lightning does not but it's faster so less likely to be interrupted, Absorb is a nice shield so I can just sword-murder heavy weapon types.

I do sometimes have a weapon-and-shield enemy who's a pain because we both shield up and wait. Even if I can Fireball, they don't die in one hit. They can't kill me, but it takes forever to kill them.

Chest opening is annoying. Wood chests at 5 seconds require tap, wait just long enough to get bored, tap open, tap skip, tap OK, takes ~15 seconds per chest with a little bit of mats and maybe a potion. Chests should automatically open & skip to contents if you're on the chest screen. Silver chests at 3 hours are far too long for the contents, which aren't that much better than Wood. Gold at 6 hours are 1 per night, plus maybe 1 more during a workday. I'm backed up to 1 Gold, 10 Silver; I increased my chest inventory to 30 but the next +10 costs 80 gems which I'm not willing to do yet.

Daily grind seems OK, do all the 1-2 skull quests/job boards, then do something hard if you can: I did one 3 skull that went fine, then another full of berserkers and wights just demolished me, I died and revived with a scroll, and soon died again! Had to abandon that job. Quests are story, they don't go away, jobs are temporary and refill daily, I haven't run out of things to do before filling up my chest inventory.

Once a quest completes, I always hit Explore and finish the delve, but then I have to hit menu, Quest Details, Complete. It should be a top-of-screen button when available, and I'd like to set it to always Explore, never auto-complete.

Mapping is going to be a real problem. Some of the delves have 2-3 branches, and my left-hand-path rule makes them navigable, but it's hard to be sure I've got every corner. No compass, no automap, just Clairvoyance lighting the "happy path" but that misses so much stuff.

I'm finally getting some delves that aren't just Imperial prisons, but natural tunnels and Ayleid ruins. The standard rooms are very repetitive, I sure hope they increase the variety soon. The intro adventure outside was nice, but I haven't seen a wilderness since.

Abyss is the endless dungeon, but at least the first 10 floors are literally a linear path with one or two rooms, and then a stair down to the next floor. Treasure is accumulated for how far you go, there's no treasure on the floor, and no food to eat. On floor 10 I just got murdered by the skeletons, there's a steep power curve there.

Arena just unlocked after I rescued some more villagers, but it isn't open yet.

Town building is very slow. I made the town hall, forge, a house, and a dwelling (different styles), each takes 2-3 hours, but I need to grind a ton of limestone and copper to make the alchemist. I did get a job which rewarded 10 limestone, so it's possible to get there. But I can't go inside any buildings, and there's still smoke rising from the walls.

A little while later, I have an alchemist, though all I've made yet are resist poison potions, which have been nice on spider delves, and I'm 2 resources short of upgrading the forge to level 2, which will hopefully let me craft & improve steel gear, my current gear isn't good enough for higher-level content.

Internet Fun Day

Oh, for fuck's sake, the Humorless Asshole Squad have started their yearly complaints about Internet Fun Day 3 days early.

Can we all just agree that if you're a humorless asshole, you should stay off the Internet from Mar 31-Apr 2, and you can pretend it never happened, and the rest of us can have fun? No? I suppose humorless assholes are also by their nature offended that other people are having fun without them. Microsoft, ground zero of humorless assholes, is banning Internet Fun Day events. As if anything they ever do isn't a prank on their users!

That's OK. I will still do something fun, and laugh at the pranks other people do. The Fools will always win!

Elder Scrolls: Blades

Early access just dropped, the app appeared on my phone! Starts with a fire screensaver with some intro text that immediately becomes a mini-tutorial. Log in with a Bethesda.net account, and… downloading day 0 update.

Walk down a little forest path, and there's a couple of fights, one of which, the Orc with a shield, is a little more demanding than tap tap kill, you need to learn to use a shield, which is awkward in portrait mode.

Then character creation! All 10 races, 2 genders, a dozen or more each settings each for body, skin color, face, hair style, hair color, eyes, eye color, nose, mouth, facial feature (beard, etc), facial feature color, face markings, face markings color. More choices than Oblivion, less than Elder Scrolls Online. I have as usual made an Altmer with long hair, Kaminarion.

There's a big tree of skills, perks, and spells, ones at the bottom are 1 point, ones at the top are 10 points, so this may take a while!

You get a quest and go. Switching to landscape view, so I can try that instead of awkward portrait combat. Increase the look sensitivity to max, it's very sluggish by default, but follows your finger at max.

Glowing objects in each room can be looted; it's not tapping on every barrel, but there is world loot. Chests are on timers, one of the uses for gems ($$$ currency), but you can also just let them run their timers out. I'm somewhat vexed that you can't carry excess food to restore health, you have to run back to it. There's health potions, but I should be able to take some cabbages with me.

As you get materials and people in quests, you get to rebuild your town, which is a nice first-person Imperial-style town, except right now it's all ruins. The townsfolk are a little hard to click on, the ones with quest diamonds over their heads you can target that, otherwise you tap into them and it hits the ground, try again and it might work.

There's no overview map for town or dungeons, sadly. The starter dungeon is just a linear delve (but make sure you find the secret area, though it only has a low-value wood chest), but I expect they'll get more complex. Maybe have to break out graph paper for this.

I would've had a combat picture, but it didn't come out well, I'll have to figure out tapping screenshot while not being killed.