Infocom (1979-1989) is recognized as the all-time leader in Interactive Fiction, releasing top-selling games and products that dominated the sales charts and still extend considerable influence and memory on the gaming industry. At times they were half of the top ten games being sold and were considered a flagship of the game industry. And then they were gone.
As part of the 2010 documentary GET LAMP, director Jason Scott talked to creators, management, fans and academics about the Infocom story, and produced this 45 minute overview of this unique and wonderful company.
The other day I’d been alerted to this fantastic port of the BASIC game to Fortran 77 by Kidon, bringing it to mainframe and midrange machines of the 1970s!
You can read more information at it’s home page here, along with getting the source code and building it out.
Naturally I had to build it using f2c, and QuickC for Windows. Just some minor tweeks and it runs!
Although victory could have gone a bit better. I know it’s largely my fault trying to introduce a clean way to pause before exiting. Obviously there is tonnes of Fortran compilers out there, for many old platforms, so perhaps this will make the Oregon Trail the ‘DooM’ of machines with F77?! Give it a try, there is extensive build instructions, and a quick list of known good platforms, be sure to update with newer (older) stuff that is found to fun!
This was a bit more work than I had anticipated. However flygoat had done much of the legwork for me. The first thing to get is flygoat’s mc-loongson.zip. I made a local download as I suspect many will not have QQ or WeChat (Or don’t want to admit to the government that you are downloading this…).
I’m not sure if it’s a MIPS thing or a UOS thing, but it had Java 11.0.4 in by default, which is CRAZY slow
$ /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.11.0-openjdk-mips64el/bin/java -version
openjdk version "11.0.4" 2019-07-16
OpenJDK Runtime Environment (build 11.0.4+11-post-Debian-1deb10u1)
OpenJDK 64-Bit Zero VM (build 11.0.4+11-post-Debian-1deb10u1, interpreted mode)
I installed version 8, but they are ‘in parallel’ in different directories… I guess it’s the .net hell drift all over again. Although to be fair I’ve only dealt with vendor installed java on Linux where it’s all fixed to single versions.
One annoying thing is that it cannot find JavaFX over and over despite it being installed, so I had to manually add the ‘module-path’. This is the syntax for version 11, I’m not all that sure on the version 8 syntax.
$ /usr/lib/jvm/java-8-openjdk-mips64el/bin/java -version
openjdk version "1.8.0"
OpenJDK Runtime Environment (Loongson 8.1.3-mips64r2-uos) (build 1.8.0-18.104.22.168-2deepin-b00)
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.71-b00, mixed mode)
I changed the /etc/alternatives/java to point to version 8, which although causes the launcher to crash launching the actual exe, it’s trivial enough to change it to version 8. Although the command is… unwieldy but save it to a shell script.
I’m sure it won’t paste well, but here we go.. and it’s in my homedir sooo here we go!
Naturally you’ll need your own username, token, uuid..
One thing is for sure, setting the graphics to higher details gives better performance. I suspect that it’s a matter of pushing more of the rendering to hardware, out of software mode.
I have it set to Fabulous! graphics, render distance of 25 chunks, no vysnc, clouds fast, mipmap level 2.
While it does take a while to load up, join the server, and do the initial world loading, you can watch all 4 cores run at 100%, but once it’s loaded in, it’s down to a single core at 100%, and the other 3 are hovering around 10-25%. So once jit’d and loaded in it seems to run okay.
They are jackhammering downstairs and I could make this 1 minute clip in a brief moment of peace. This is before I figured out that the more acceleration you give Minecraft, the faster it runs with the GPU doing the heavy lifting (I think).
Is this the machine for the Minecraft enthusiast? Hardly, but Minecraft is the Java success story, where a platform like this, a fringe non mainstream platform will run a commercial app. This is where the real portability of binutils/gcc/libc and Linux prove to be the winning platform.
In the world of “If you can’t encourage an exclusive, buy it” here we are at this crossroad again. With the new MS console getting ready to be pushed out into the world, there is no doubt that we are not only in for a new deluge of Skyrim ports, but the much anticipated Starfield should be appearing on nextgen consoles, the best way to keep it exclusive is to just buy the beleaguered studio, and push onwards.
No doubt the fallout from … Fallout 76 has burnt a lot of people, so this may just further isolate their diminishing fan base, only time will tell. Or normies just don’t care about FO76 as it was some MMMMOOOORPG thing that normal people don’t care about, and all they want to do is kill dragons, and shoot lazzer beams from their hands.
One thing that is kind of fitting is that the culture of ‘release it and patch it in the field’ is in safe hands at Microsoft!
So yeah if you linked your bethesda.net account to your steam account it’ll transfer it over. I guess to their credit it links your saves and all that.
I loaded it, against my better judgement. And 55GB later they have finally updated it to have NPC’s! But it’s still online, and despite having a commercial internet connection with synchronous up/down it’s still super laggy, and suffers from the damage from after the fact artifacts on launch.
Seriously my internet connection isn’t that crap. No doubt I’m playing on servers on the other side of the planet, but of course you still cannot select what server to join.
Even with an i7 9th gen and a RTX-2070 the game still chops and texture pops.
I guess I missed all the excitement of the new DooM whatever, but Bethesda decided to dig up that N64 ‘DooM 3’ aka DooM 64. It’s a unique game unlike all the other console ports that were straight ports of the original DooM, although some like the 32x (Mars) or Jaguar versions that had a bunch of details removed from the levels to either spare the limited processors, and/or save precious cartridge space.
At $39 HKD, it’s $4 USD, so it’s a bit ‘pricy’ for something that is a 23 year old game, but at least I guess it’s out in the wild in a legal format. No idea if it made it to Bethesda.net as that whole thing collapsed quicker than Fallout 76 became a meme riddled disappointment.
Anyways I know I’m late to the party, but it’s all new to me.
On one of my later trips I picked up this fun title, Lemmings!
And looking at the back of the box, what fun it contains!
One interesting thing about 1995, is that with the rise of Windows 95, this marked the end of the specialized PC market in Japan. Just as WING/Direct X basically killed off the DIY driver/extender environment on MS-DOS, by being able to abstract the hardware it removed any meaningful difference between an EPSON PC vs a PC-98, FM Towns, or even the lowly IBM AT/386.
This being a Win32 includes both WING & Win32s. A perfect snapshot of an early Win32 commercial game circa 1995, as you needed to cater to that massive Windows 3.1 install base, although so many were rushing to Windows 95. Naturally this also means that the setup program is a Win16 app, once more again to preserve that bridge of the Windows 3.1 & Windows 95 world.
Well the obvious thing to do is just install it on a legacy 32bit OS, and what better than Windows XP?
Now to run it on something like Windows 10, it’s just a matter of copying the WINLEMM.INI into %sysroot%, along with placing a copy of WING32.DLL into the %sysroot%\SysWOW64 directory and you are good to go!
Sadly the character encoding in Windows is still really lacking and doesn’t render all that great. However that had me thinking as almost a decade ago I did find a demo of Lemmings for Windows. Could it be possible to just overlay the executables & DLL’s to produce an English commercial version?
Surprisingly the answer is yes. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s as simple as that!
The game is mostly playable, some parts are just coded to run as fast as possible, as no doubt nobody was imagining 1+ Ghz machines. So the intro, warp & suicide are almost instant.
It’s something to keep the kids entertained for a day in recent events. It’s been a LONG CNY.
So I was lucky enough to get to Beep before it close, and I picked out a couple of FM Towns titles (and a junker!), and I thought ‘Return to Zork’ would be a good title, something to compare the MacOS & MS-DOS versions against.
Although slightly faded, it does come in this nice box, which reminds me of the NEOGEO… which is probably an apt comparison.
The artwork has faded, although the CD-ROM inside was still sealed, never before opened. I picked this up for an eye watering ¥3,480 but flipping the box over revealed the launch price of an astonishing ¥12,800! I’m not sure what the exchange rate from 1994 was, but even at a generous 100:1 JPY to USD that’s half the price of the old multimedia kits which included the drive, sound card and so many came bundled with Return to Zork.
Another random title I grabbed was even more insane!
¥ 14,800 for Silent Möbius: Case: Titanic!
I need to get a RGB monitor & keyboard to see if this thing even works, meanwhile I fought with UNZ to get it running, and the mouse tracking is totally broken unless you change the DPI scaling, credit to this post in the UNZ ‘BBS’.
One thing is sure, the voice acting in the Japanese version is so terrible.
As people complain about ‘AAA’ games, and paying $60, just look at this! $134 USD for some cartoon boat game thing.. Although I’ve never heard of Silent Möbius or played it, I just saw it was available for the x68000 and PC-98. So I guess it’s one of those Lowest Common Denominator games.
One interesting thing about the FM TOWNS is that they have that ROM DOS with CD-ROM drivers, and their apparently blanket licensing for PharLap 386. Although while I was wasting time looking at cartoon rabbits, someone else scooped but the 386 BASIC kit. Darn.
But in the Return to Zork world, the ‘made.exe’ is in fact a Pharlap 386 EXP, meaning that it runs in 386 protected mode, so you don’t have to struggle with emm386, himem.sys and trying to get a ludercus 580-600kb of conventional memory. Seriously it was such a chore to get this running the manual has a big section on setting up a boot disk. It’s a shame they didn’t license a DOS extender for the US PC platform, although I can see why they chose that route on the FM Towns (and I believe PC98), as there is a RTZ9821 directory there which includes an EXP. Shame it was never relased state side as a patch, as it would have been a GREAT user change. Well that or a Win32 executable.
The engine suffers many limitations from supporting 8bit machines, although they did uplift the graphics, music and sound although they didn’t increase the overall sizes. And the engine on the PC side was written in PASCAL of all things. I mean it was the hip language of the era, and well C is just too portable and reliable. The later SSI games were C++ apparently.
That said, for MS-DOS purists and those wanting to be legit, the old SSI AD&D games are on sale over on GOG, broken up into a few collections.
With collection 2 being the gold box editions, featuring:
POOL OF RADIANCE
CURSE OF THE AZURE BONDS
SECRET OF THE SILVER BLADES
POOLS OF DARKNESS
GATEWAY TO THE SAVAGE FRONTIER
TREASURES OF THE SAVAGE FRONTIER
FORGOTTEN REALMS UNLIMITED ADVENTURES
Which is a bargain at $3.39 USD!
I don’t know why I’m finding so much fun things on GOG, but here we are. In other news I got a new $99 USD dual Xeon board, although it seems to have some weird mystery issues including a ’99’ power issue, and when it does boot even the install media for Windows 10 bluescreens. Sad.
Also included is a bunch of concept art from the film!
Naturally it’s using ScummVM to run the game, instead of the horribly broken Windows 95 specific executables from 22 years ago.
While starting up the game it dumps this:
From the dark recesses of David Leary's imagination comes a game unlike any
other. Blade Runner immerses you in the underbelly of future Los Angeles.
Right from the start, the story pulls you in with graphic descriptions of a
grandmother doing the shimmy in her underwear, child molestation, brutal
cold-blooded slaying of innocent animals, vomiting on desks, staring at a
woman's ass, the list goes on. And when the game starts, the real fun begins - shoot down-on-their-luck homeless people and toss them into a dumpster. Watch
with sadistic glee as a dog gets blown into chunky, bloody, bits by an
explosive, and even murder a shy little girl who loves you. If you think
David Leary is sick, and you like sick, this is THE game for you.
JW: Don't forget the wasting of helpless mutated cripples in the underground.
It's such a beautiful thing!
DL: Go ahead. Just keep beating that snarling pit bull...ignore the foam
around his jaws. There's room on the top shelf of my fridge for at least one
more head... - Psychotic Dave
MG: Is David Leary a self-respecting human or is he powered by rechargeable
JM: Chrome...is that what that is?
JM: It's hard to imagine that thing on either a car or a horse.
MG: McCoy! What a witty chap...
JM: He keeps me chuckling non-stop!
JM: That McCoy--he's one funny guy! Jet-black fire truck, hehehehe...