Showing posts with label leadlight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leadlight. Show all posts

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Cragne Manor – Anchorhead – Michael Hayes' Guided Tour

The mega-collaboration-twenty-year-anniversary-tribute-to-Michael-Gentry's-1998-H.P.-Lovecraft-inspired-adventure-game-Anchorhead, called Cragne Manor, was released to the public this week. This is a great thing/event, but it's already been described a few times in a row on Planet IF, which is where I assume most (or all) readers of this blog come from. Therefore I don't feel like repeating all the details here – though it would be my deity-given right to do so if I wanted. I'll instead refer you to Andrew Plotkin's blog post about the game, to which I contributed a location. (I contributed a location to the game, not his blog post.)

I instead want to take a step back to Anchorhead itself. A further step back is first necessary, where I give a potted history of my experience with text adventures.

If mainframes are the beginning, I was there soon after the beginning. I played the Sierra (On-Line Systems) graphics adventures, Scott Adams adventures, and a bunch of other new graphic adventure games on my dad's Apple II computer in the 1980s. On the Infocom front, I had a mania for Suspended, which we picked up cheap in a Dick Smith store one day, but only for the beginning of it, which I replayed over and over because I couldn't get any further.

Later Infocom adventures mostly came to me in pirated fashion, and what with their elaborate manuals and such that you don't get with cracked copies, I got nowhere. So even though I now feel I know a ton about Infocom games, I haven't played many of them deeply. Except for Suspended, and later Wishbringer. No Zork for me.

Commercial text adventures went out of style. I particularly disliked the offspring of King's Quest, and also wasn't too interested in the point-and-click school. This includes both icon-driven games and things like Myst.

For a long time, I did nothing on this front. I only came back to text adventures in 2010 when I made Leadlight, and that happened because of a long delayed childhood wish to make a horror Eamon adventure on the Apple II. Finding IFComp via Leadlight was how I got back into text adventures. I began to explore the games that had been made while I was elsewhere.

A big thing that had been made while I was elsewhere was Anchorhead. While Andrew Plotkin, someone who never went away from these games, mentions looking back on it fondly in his post (the one I linked to in the first paragraph) from the perspective of having been there at the time, that's certainly not how I got involved in Cragne Manor. For me, Anchorhead was a large concrete block of frustration I came at repeatedly over time. I've noticed I find a lot of the major puzzle-centric games from around that time too hard. I want some kind of helpful hint system for them, and in most cases – and in Anchorhead's case – there wasn't one within or without the game. A dump of commands to enter manages to be both clunky and spoilery. Plus, the game just made me feel that I could be doing anything. But what was I supposed to be doing? This feeling was experienced as a sort of unhelpful aimlessness.

I think there's definitely a mental school of like experiences with Anchorhead out there. I mean, there's a topic on intfiction right now called Anchorhead is too hard for me, which I assure you I had nothing to do with.

Before you start thinking I'm just going to go tediously slagging off Anchorhead for the duration of this post, let me jump to the part of the story where, this year, when Cragne Manor was at the announcement stage, I thought, 'OK, I'll give Anchorhead another shot.' I looked around for better help, and this time found it in the form of Michael Hayes' Guided Tour (link is on the right of the Anchorhead IFDB page) which seems to hail from 2015. This was a Hallelujah moment for me. The guide comes as a spreadsheet with the game divided into sections, and it has a verbose list of commands with extra comments and context to help you along. Using this guide, I played through the game. Now finding myself out on the other side of the puzzles that had blocked me all those other times, I also found I had enjoyed Anchorhead and acquired a great admiration for it. (Admittedly, tempered with my prior roadblock experience of it. It will always be tempered!)

I then went and bought the new illustrated edition from itch.io

I would say my difficult experience with Anchorhead was partly due to my DNA, and partly due to my expectations of IF games, which formed both well before and after the chunk of IF time when Anchorhead arrived on the scene, but not during it. As I've said, I find games from that middle period sometimes exhibit the twin qualities of being too difficult and short on help. They're also much rawer in user-friendliness than what I discovered when I got back into IF in 2010. I mean, I restarted with Aotearoa, one of the most user-friendly IF games ever.

So if you've ever had trouble with Anchorhead, I recommend Michael Hayes' guide (from the Anchorhead IFDB page.) Thanks Michael Hayes, and viva Anchorhead (tempered!)

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Plug 3 of 2: Leadlight Gamma + Bandcamp Soundtrack sale pending on itch.io, June 20-27

itch.io's summer sales loom, and thus so does my Leadlight Gamma + Bandcamp Soundtrack sale. (You can bookmark that link for when the sale period starts.)

Here is the deal. Between June 20 and June 27 (of 2018) on itch.io:

* You get 75% off text-adventure-survival horror-CRPG Leadlight Gamma
* You get a free coupon for the soundtrack on Bandcamp

So you get both items for US$1.67, which is a $10 saving or 85% off. (Regular minimum cost of the game (US$6.66) plus the Bandcamp soundtrack (US$5) = $11.66).

Leadlight Gamma is a substantial piece of Inform tech featuring a zoomable automap, an artwork gallery, a free-running soundtrack in an out-of-world player, and two layers of unlockables: one for when you first clear the game, and one for when you clear it with a perfect score. If you're playing on a PC, the game offers a thorough accessibility mode catering to screen-reading software. The game runs on MacOS – PCs (Windows, Linux) – iPads and iPhones (iOS) via iFrotz

Read / see much more about Leadlight Gamma (and the original Leadlight) on the game's homepage and its itch.io page


Sunday, 28 January 2018

Eamon keeps on chugging in Eamon Remastered

Keith Dechant recently released Eamon Remastered:

"Eamon is a classic interactive fiction game with RPG elements, written for the Apple 2 in 1980. Eamon Remastered is a remake of the classic game for the modern web. Play Eamon adventures in your browser without needing an emulator."

The Lair of the Minotaur in Eamon Remastered

I’ve tried Eamon Remastered, and it’s very good, graceful work, though still with a few light bugs and features to come that are being tweaked out. Eamon Remastered provides a mechanically faithful port of Eamon’s Main Hall, the place where you make your characters, plus a collection of classic Eamon adventures you can try in any order you choose. Characters are stored locally on your computer, so all you need to play is a web browser. There are twenty adventures on the site so far. The starting selection appears to be a curated one, a mix of the historically famous (in Eamon circles), the good, and the reasonable/sensible. I mean reasonable in the sense that the player won’t be killed in such adventures, instantly and repeatedly, by deathtraps and supermonsters. The 250+ adventures made for Eamon during its heyday vary massively in their difficulty level, quality and setting because they were all written by different people, and weren’t subject to any oversight or master plan. Keith’s choice of adventures to port to Eamon Remastered so far looks to spare random visitors from the threat of wack difficulty, and also from the conundrum of having too many adventures to choose from.

(If you’d like to read more about the harsh nature of the challenge presented by some old school Eamons, see my reviews of The Tomb of Y’Golonac and The Pyramind of Anharos on IFDB.)

Keith’s work builds on an MS-DOS port of Eamon called Eamon Deluxe, by Frank Black, a previous (and indefinitely ongoing? Or is it now definitely not-going?) project that had one of the same aims as Eamon Remastered: to make Eamon more easily playable by more people. Eamon Deluxe sought to achieve this via the ubiquity of the DosBOX emulator and by enhancing screen reader compatibility, but when I recently retried Eamon Deluxe on a High Sierra Mac, it was a bit tetchy.

Eamon’s history has enough spread and divergence that it’s as fascinating a one to wander as that of its more cerebral antecedent, Crowther and Woods’s Adventure. You can follow Jason Dyer’s exhaustive attempts to catalogue differences across early versions of Adventure over in his Renga in Blue blog. Eamon was born in a similarly accessible/hackable programming environment, and so from it grew a tree of numerous cousins, offshoots and ports, some with minor tweaks, some with major. Some of them were to other systems and some to languages other than English. Just over the past few years, more thought-to-be-lost adventures on old floppies have turned up and been added to the general library, or to the PC Eamon Museum.

Matt Clark’s intermittently updated blog The Eamon Adventurers Guild tracks all of these finds and updates. It's a good read if you want to see what Eamon stuff has been going on between 2004 and the present. A couple of my favourite posts include the tour of the historical promo disk for an envisioned (read: now vaporware) Apple IIGS-specific version of Eamon and the review of a sneaky commercial version of Eamon called Load’N’Go Beginners Cave.

A ton of heavy Eamon lifting was done post-heyday by Frank Black with Eamon Deluxe. As I understand it, another of its goals was an exhaustive one: to eventually port every Eamon adventure to Eamon Deluxe. It seems unlikely that will ever happen, but Eamon Deluxe already sports a solid catalogue of adventures, including some original ones for the system. It also contains a reorganised Eamon adventure tree with vacant branches in it ready to receive the yet-to-be-ported games. I was chuffed to see there’s even a slot in there for my game Leadlight.

Another neat feature of Eamon Deluxe is that it holds reviews for many of the adventures in the app itself. That’s to say that you can read them from the same interface in which you browse the adventures. This approach gives Eamon Deluxe the potential to be the Ultimate All-In-One Eamon Box, though I think it will remain a potential.

To read more about the earliest days of Eamon (from a recent perspective) you can also check out Jimmy Maher’s posts about it in The Digital Antiquarian.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Leadlight and a new OS for the Apple II

John Brooks, best known in Apple circles for programming the amazing Apple IIGS version of fantasy platformer Rastan in 1990, recently released an unnofficial update to ProDOS 8, the OS used by 8-bit Apple II computers. The last official version was 2.0.3, released by Apple in 1993, so that's 23 years between lunches. Brooks's 2.0.4 release includes improvements for almost the whole range of Apple IIs, both the 8-bit ones and the 16-bit Apple IIGS.

One thing about ProDOS 2.x in general is that it never ran on the oldest Apple II models: the original Apple II, the Apple II+ and the unenhanced Apple IIe. You needed an enhanced Apple IIe, an Apple IIC or an Apple IIGS. Until now, anyway. Brooks's 2.0.4 lets you run ProDOS 2.x on the earlier IIs.

When I programmed Leadlight back in 2009–2010, I had to assess what the minimum hardware requirement for it would be. The game uses ProDOS 2.0.3 and lowercase characters, so I stated that the minimum would be an enhanced Apple IIe. Now the game could potentially run on older machines under ProDOS 2.0.4, so long as they've been upgraded to 64KB of RAM and have 80-column cards in them (giving lowercase capability).

I don't think I'll be racing to implement this possible OS change. Leadlight is at a very stable place now and content-synced between the Apple II and Inform versions, but there is a glimmer of appeal in the idea of tweaking it to try to get it to work on even more limited hardware without taking anything out of it.

* You can buy Leadlight Gamma for modern devices or get the original Apple II version for free at http://heiresssoftware.com/leadlightgamma/

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Leadlight Gamma interview on IndieSider #26

For episode 26 of the video/podcast series IndieSider, the show's host Ken Gagne invited me on to talk about Leadlight Gamma and IF. This episode is out today.

IndieSider's structure is that episodes start with a game overview/demo (about 8 minutes in this case) then the interview plays over gameplay footage (about 30 minutes in this case). Or you can get an all-audio version.

Ken pointed out that I've already talked about making Leadlight per se a fair bit in various media in the past, so the focus of this episode is on porting the game, releasing it commercially and other stuff.

You can watch the video (or get the audio) and peruse episode links on the IndieSider/Gamebits homepage:

http://www.gamebits.net/2015/07/15/indiesider-26-leadlight-gamma/

Or if you're Youtubey, you can watch the vid there:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUbDcvYbkPI

I hope you enjoy your trip through this door.

Thanks again to Ken again for having me.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Presenting Leadlight Gamma



Last week I released Leadlight Gamma, a new Glulx incarnation of my 2010 Apple II-coded interactive fiction-survival horror-CRPG hybrid, Leadlight (here's Leadlight on IFDB). You can buy Leadlight Gamma for MacOS, Windows, Linux or iOS at itch.io for US$4. The game file is cross platform compatible and I offer various configurations of installer or interpreter+game bundles on the itch.io site:

http://wade-clarke.itch.io/leadlight-gamma

15-year-old Belinda Nettle is studying at Linville Girls High School in Australia's Blue Mountains. After falling asleep in the library one afternoon, she wakes from her mundane existence into a nightmare. Her classmates are transformed, nameless terrors seek her out across the schoolgrounds, and traps and tricks threaten her life at every turn. 
Can you help Belinda survive this terror-filled night and solve its mysteries? And will there be a new day?
The game also has a standalone site at http://leadlightgamma.heiresssoftware.com/

At the core of Leadlight Gamma is a faithful port of the original game, now enhanced for modern platforms with graphic automap, tutorial mode, unlockable extra content, behind-the-scenes tour mode and easter eggs, original soundtrack, artwork gallery and an accessibility mode for vision-impaired players.

Unfortunately the accessibility mode isn't a go on Macs yet because the only Mac interpreter that can run LLG is Gargoyle, and Gargoyle doesn't work with screen readers. I plan to talk about this and the various other technical challenges to accessibility programming I've been running into and learning about in another post in the near future.

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You might wonder what motivates someone to spend a long time remaking one of their games instead of moving onto the next one. I can summarise what happened like this:

A few years ago I was tossing about ideas for a sequel to the original Leadlight. It would have been all modern. No two-word parser, no Apple IIs in sight – just a brand new game. While these ideas weren't coalescing, I opened Inform up one evening and copy-pasted the description of Leadlight's first room into it to see how it looked. Before long I'd pasted some more rooms in, and I was experiencing a degree of pleasure and narcissism in being able to walk around in this world again in a new context. I got hooked on building the whole thing anew after overcoming the first engineering challenge I encountered (though I don't remember exactly what it was, now). I also realised the port would bring the game to more players, and just make it easier to get at.

So I've ended up doing a 180 on the idea I previously expressed that I had no interest in porting the game to Inform. I'd thought the 'building a ship in a bottle' feel of the original 8-bit project (for me) might be rendered invisible or pointless-feeling by taking it to a platform which could, relatively speaking, do anything. I didn't realise it would end up being another interesting permutation of the same experience. It was like building a scale model of the ship in the bottle, partly by squinting through the glass at the original ship, and partly by studying the microscopically scaled plans used to build the original ship.