Monthly Archives: November 2012

It is pitch black…

Perhaps you’re like me, and one of the very first gaming experiences you had on a computer was a text adventure.

Sometimes a person is lucky enough to have a first experience, a first taste of something, that is so amazingly, compellingly good that it forever shapes how they think about that thing.  For me, that first thing was Infocom‘s Zork, and it gave me a lifelong love of computers and gaming.

The text adventure was a genre that ruled the landscape of early computer gaming, until advancing graphics technology inevitably supplanted text as the canvas for creating worlds on personal computers. GET LAMP, a documentary directed by Jason Scott, takes a close look at the genre, from its inception as Will Crowther‘s original cave-diving Adventure, to its perfection at Infocom, to its effective demise in the late 80’s and resurgence in the modern era as home-grown Interactive Fiction.

Box art for Zork I, a computer text adventure game for the Atari ST by Infocom 1985

Box art for Zork I, Atari ST version


As the premiere text adventure company of the era, a particular light is shone on Infocom, producer of  classics such as the aforementioned Zork games, Deadline, Suspended, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… the list is exhaustive.  Interviews of those involved are numerous and informative, and form a captivating narrative about the company and what it was like to work there.  It’s fascinating to hear the founders and game designers talk about how they were convinced they were on the cusp of creating a new type of literature that would stand the test of time.  Now we look back with 20/20 vision and it seems so obvious that the writing was on the wall for Infocom even as it began making games, that inherent in the very idea of text adventure computer games is the seed that will sow the company’s destruction.  It was inevitable that game designers, inspired by Infocom games, would eventually want to move on from monochromatic text and turn the lights on to see what is actually there.  As well, hobbyist IF writers and players also feature in segments that highlight the fact that text adventures have survived and thrived after the demise of Infocom.  Be sure to keep an eye out for a secret item in these interview segments.

Call them text adventures, or adventure games, or the more grandiose interactive fiction, these types of games created entire worlds only with words on a screen.  GET LAMP brightly illuminates the forgotten dark corners, hallways and caverns of these worlds and the people who crafted them.  Good thing too, because you don’t want to end up reading these words:

…you were eaten by a Grue.

Wii U, a video game console by Nintendo

Nintendo Draws First Blood in Next Generation Gaming

Nintendo’s latest game console, their first shot across the bow in the next generation of video game machines, was released yesterday.  The hook is once again a re-imagining of the gaming controller, although here, instead of motion control, the Wii U taps into the gaming tablet rage by having a large screen embedded into the controller.

There seems to be a lot of potential here, including allowing one player to influence the play field on their screen while others struggle against his influence with regular Wii controllers, or even being able to move the game completely onto the controller while someone else watches the TV.  It comes off as a mish-mash to me, however.  Do we want motion control in our controllers, or do we want a big screen?  Also, I’d be very worried handing over a controller with a screen to my 4 and 6 year old sons.

At any rate, here’s hoping the Wii U boosts Nintendo’s sagging bottom line, and doesn’t become the company’s Atari 7800.

As always, for more information on the history of Nintendo, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

When The Moon Hits Your Ear….

It struck me today how certain things can make a big difference in the quality of classic video games.  Programmers didn’t have a lot to work with, so they had to really put their heart into what they were doing.

Take Moon Cresta, for instance.  Licenced from Hoei as Stellar Ranger by Gremlin Industries and given the new name for NA release in 1980, it’s yet another Galaxian clone, riding the coattails of the game that unshackled the alien invaders from marching single file across the screen as sitting ducks, and sent them swirling down at the player like cosmic Stukkas.  Moon Cresta would be nothing special, if not for its wonderful sound design.  From the majestic opening theme to the squirrelly screams of the dying aliens to the insistent imperatives that pressure you as you play, it’s wonderful stuff that really helps fill in the gaps left by the limited graphics available at the time.

Sounds were one of the most important ways of games to draw you in while wandering around a noisy arcade (remember those things?), and Moon Cresta really shoots for the moon in auditory quality.  Here’s a video to help you hear what I mean:

Sources (Click to view; inert links kept for historical purposes)

Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “California Clippings.” Cash Box 11 Oct. 1980: 44. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 2 Oct. 2019. <>. …sales of Hoei’s “Stellar Ranger,” which was recently licensed to Gremlin and renamed “Moon Cresta”…

Origin Systems logo circa 1982

Ultima Underworld: The Abyssmal Voice Acting


While I love the game Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, I always have to sit through the lengthy cinematic at the beginning and chuckle at the horrible voice acting.  It’s unfortunate too, because in all other respects it’s an exciting and visually stunning intro that I’m sure amazed a few people back in the day on their x486 PCs.

Once the sprites start opening their mouths though, whoo boy.  It sounds like the programmers just recorded a rather dull high school play and just animated to that.

Here’s our gameplay video, judge for yourself whether the actors should be thrown into the Stygian Abyss:

Poster excerpt for the AVGN movie

AVGN Movie Trailer Released

I don’t know if you’ve seen the videos from The Angry Video Game Nerd, aka James Rolfe, but you should.  In a vast web series, the AVGN tortures himself by playing the crappiest games ever made, and inevitably becomes enraged that such dross was ever foisted onto an unsuspecting public.

Just released is the trailer for a feature-length film made by and starring Rolfe, and it looks like it won’t disappoint the fans.  The movie details the Nerd’s attempt to uncover the fabled burial site where, as the bottom was falling out of the video game industry in 1983, Atari took millions of unsold cartridges of their excremental E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial game and dumped them into a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  They then covered the whole thing in concrete and walked away like nothing happened.

Rolfe and his team expect the movie to be released in 2013, but there’s no promises.  Be sure to check out Rolfe’s other tirades as well.

For more information on the crash, E.T. and the great video game dump, consult your local Dot Eaters entry here.