|A letter from
See page 5
|The Status Line||Hermit Crab
See pages 6 & 7
|Volume VI Number 2||Formerly The New Zork Times||Summer 1987|
Suddenly, strange images appear on the screen, hinting at a ghastly fate close at hand. Darkness overcomes you as you're drawn into a fiendish world full of unimaginable horrors. When you struggle awake (for surely it must be a dream), you find yourself clutching an object last seen in your nightmare...
Thus begins The Lurking Horror, Infocom's first interactive horror story.
In The Lurking Horror, you're a student at George Underwood Edwards Institute of Technology. Although you're dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, once you "awake" from your nightmare, you've got more on your mind than your term paper. As though pulled by a powerful force within the object you've so mysteriously acquired, you leave your computer and venture into the dark nether regions of the Institute.
Now you're treading on dangerous ground indeed. For beneath the Institute lies a warren of dimly-lit corridors and storage rooms, some so ancient that they contain only rotting piles of unidentifiable junk. There are miles of decrepit tunnels, crumbling into hazardous piles of timber and brick. But negociating the terrain is the least of your problems.
Shapes emerge from dark corners. Eerie sounds draw closer. Slimy passageways lead to sights so horrifying that they will feed your nightmares for weeks. A ghastly presence is at work here, committing unspeakably loathsome acts. Can you stop it...before it stops you?
The Lurking Horror follows in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, as author Dave Lebling turns an everyday world into a frightening web of uncertainty. The numerous puzzles will challenge both first-time and experienced players, and Lebling's chilling descriptions will leave you with images you'll never forget.
As with all Infocom games, the package includes items to introduce you to your role as the main character in the story. There's a copy of "G.U.E. at a Glance," chock-full of photos, tips, and inside info on George Underwood Edwards Institute of Technology. And to make sure you can get your delicious dining hall lunch, there's also a genuine G.U.E. Tech student I.D. card.
The Lurking Horror is Dave Lebling's eighth work of interactive fiction. His previous works have won high acclaim and numerous awards. In addition to authoring Sprllbreaker, Suspect®, and Starcross®, he co-wrote Zork® I, Zork II, Zork III, and Enchanter®.
To introduce you to another popular work by Dave Lebling, each Lurking Horror package contains a coupon which you can mail in to get Suspect for only $14.95. This is a special price only available through this offer. (In Suspect, Lebling places you in a different sort of fiendish situation. You're a newspaper reporter who attends a high-society Halloween masquerade ball and ends up being accused of murder.)
Scheduled for release in late June, The Lurking Horror will be available for a wide variety of personal computers, including Apple II series and Macintosh, Atari XL/XE and ST series, Commodore 64/128 and Amiga, and IBM PC series and MS-DOS compatibles. The suggested retail price is $34.95 for Atari XL/XE and Commodore 64/128 and $39.95 for all other systems.
Planetfall is also a favorite of reviewers and critics. Meretzky won a Best Computer Software Designer award for Planetfall in 1983, and additional awards include Best Adventure Game of 1983 from InfoWorld. One reviewer mirrored the enthusiasm of many when he said, "Planetfall is just about worth the purchase of a computer."
Steve Meretzky has received countless requests for a sequel to Planetfall. Now he has made everyone happy by writing Stationfall. All the elements which made Planetfall one of Infocom's best-loved games are here in Stationfall: the ever-efficient Stellar Patrol, the comical characters and situations, the amazing tools and machines of the future, the ingenious puzzles, and the endearing little robot Floyd. Although Planetfall fans will delight in meeting old friends, it's not necessary to have played one game to enjoy the other.
At the start of Stationfall, you're still enlisted in the Stellar Patrol. Your heroics in saving the planet Resida in Planetfall earned you a promotion to Lieutenant First Class, but that was five long years ago, and since then nothing has changed at all. You've merely gone from a scrubworker to a paperpusher.
And today promises to be just as boring as every other day. You're being sent to a nearby space station to pick up a supply of Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms.
But wait...all is not lost. By a happy twist of fate, your companion for the journey turns out to be your old pal Floyd! That's right, it's the very same mischievous little robot who was your playful buddy in Planetfall.
With Floyd and his paddleball set in tow, you're soon on your way to the space station. As you can see from your packet of blueprints, the station has nine levels of offices and living areas, not to mention a huge plant for printing Stellar Patrol forms. Not included on the official blueprints, but fully visible from the spacetruck, is a space village, a seedy cluster of tubes, bubbles, and discarded rockets which has grown up around the space station in blatant violation of all Stellar Patrol regulations.
>From the moment you arrive at the station, you can tell something is wrong. For one thing, no one's there to meet you. In fact, the whole place is deserted, save for an ostrich, an Arcturian balloon creature, and a brainy robot named Plato. As you explore the station and the derelict village, you find even more to worry you.
A creepy alien ship carrying only an empty pedestal rests in a docking bay. The commander's log describes the mysterious breakdown of machinery, demonstrated by a roving hull-welder that nearly does you in. And finally even Floyd begins acting oddly...
To prepare you for your important position on the Paperwork Task Force of the Stellar Patrol, the Stationfall package includes your three assignment forms, a set of blueprints for a Gamma-Delta-Gamma Class deep space station, and an official sew-on Stellar Patrol patch. The package also contains a coupon which you can send in to get Planetfall for only $14.95. This is an exclusive offer only available with the coupon.
Stationfall will be available in late June for a wide variety of personal computers, including Apple II series and Macintosh, Atari XL/XE and ST series, Commodore 64/128 and Amiga, and IBM PC series and MS-DOS compatibles. The suggested retail price is $34.95 for Atari XL/XE and Commodore 64/128 and $39.95 for all other systems.
As Infocom and Science Centre staff battled it out with a deck of cards, 15 teams, representing high schools from the entire Province of Ontario raced to be the first to solve Stationfall. The overnight event on March 6-7 was the eighth such grueling competition. In our last issue, Stu Galley reported on Marathons 3 and 4, held in San Francisco and Seattle. Since then, Infocom has managed to survive Marathons in Pittsburgh, San Diego, Los Angeles and of course, Toronto. Below are the highlights.
February 6 and 7 found the Marathon of the Minds in Pittsburgh. David Shim, Bill Burky, and Darren Lasko of North Allegheny High School solved Hollywood Hijinx in a record time of 10 hours -- previous Hijinx Marathons lasted between 13 and 17 hours. The second-place team solved the final puzzle at 6 a.m. That was good news for the Infocom crew of "Hollywood" Dave Anderson and 18-year-old son of Harvard President Derek Bok, Tom Bok, who were eager to get some sleep, but bad news for the news crew that arrived at the Buhl Science Center at 7 a.m. to cover the finish live. One third of the forty-five players (15 teams of three) were female -- including an all-woman team from Union City High School.
At the San Diego Marathon, on February 20-21, it took until noon for the team of Paul Ashley, Joel Pratt and Tetsuji Gotanda from Gompers High School to crack Bureaucracy. Due to the difficulty of the game, Infocom Vice President and Bureaucracy collaborator Chris Reeve offered to give each of the 15 teams one hint. They steadfastly refused until it became clear at 8 a.m. the following morning that the competition was likely to continue for several days. Oddly, not one female showed up for the event at the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theatre in Balboa Park. But the camera crews did, at 10 a.m. -- just in time to film one participant diligently dozing under a stairway for the evening news.
In Los Angeles, Infocom's February 28th Marathon coincided with the 2nd annual Los Angeles Marathon. Ours started earlier and finished later. Twenty teams from local high schools gathered at the California Museum of Science and Industry to attempt Bureaucracy. This time, it took the team of Chad Jones, Eric Allegado and Sean Peacock from San Gabriel High School 20 exhausting hours and four hints to finish. (Make you feel better?)
In addition to the crew of Tim, Hollywood and Cindy Weiss, we had several surprise guests: Marc Blank, now residing in L.A., Sales Development Manager Gabrielle Accardi who was in Palm Springs "on business," former micro hacker and current Caltech student Andy Kaluzniaki and Cornerstone Designer Brian Berkowitz, who flew in from Seattle just for the occasion. The "regular crew" even managed to get Mike Dornbrook to come to this one in an attempt to get even with him for coming up with the Marathon idea in the first place. Only he outsmarted them. Mike and the other "surprise" guests came for a glass of wine, then promptly headed off to Beverly Hills for a feast while Tim, Hollywood, Cindy and former Infocommie Joy Pulver ate cold Mexican take-out at the Museum.
The Toronto Marathon was without a doubt the high point. Over 80 teams wished to compete, but space considerations held the number down to 20, selected by lottery. The Science Centre treated everyone to a sit-down dinner, complete with cloth napkins and waiters! Berkley Barnard, Finnegan Southey, and Stefan Kremer from Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute solved Stationfall in 17 hours. The competition was fierce and players searched for help from other sources: St. Mary's High School posted a sign reading, "We have God on our side," while the school sitting opposite responded, "666, we have the devil on our side."
Special InfoThanks to Radio Shack, who donated the Tandy 1000 EX computers and color monitors for the winners of the Pittsburgh, San Diego and Los Angeles Marathons, as well as computers for the teams to use during the competitions.
Reacting quickly to the situation, Mike Dornbrook, chief theorist of the TSL, announced, in a terse communique, that "I am in control here." He went on to say that Goldman's time at the TSL had been marked by great strides in both hard news and publishing technology.
Although Ms. Goldman's departure was a shock to many of her co-workers, it was not totally unforeseen. "The heat she took on that religion article was tremendous," commented long time staffer Gayle "Red Pencils" Syska. "I think it was the questions about ANSI that did her in," added Customer Support columnist Curtis Montague.
However, there were persistent rumors that it was her introduction of desktop publishing technologies into the TSL that had played an important part in her departure. "The old boys just couldn't take it," commented an anonymous pressman.
Acting editor-in-chief, Dornbrook, has announced that a search committee would soon be formed to find a replacement for Goldman. "I will not let this publication be compromised for one moment. The standards that Ms. Goldman created will be upheld," he said.
You guys are just incredible! Can't find a name for the stuff you design, huh? You've been working at it for years, and you still don't know what it's called, eh? My god, if you would just take the effort to remove your heads from the dark hole they are stuck in, you would be able to see what this particular forest is composed of.
"Interactive fiction." Great zot, the hypertensive poobah who came up with that overinflated term ought to have some of the air let out of his ego. You see, it's quite simple to spot if you just put your minds to it. For no matter what you name them, Planetfall or Suspended, Infidel or Trinity, they are one and all, all of the same class and species...by all that's holy, they are ZORKS!!!
Really, folks, it's your term. Belongs to you, and you thought it up, now use it. Why is every tissue a Kleenex, and every photocopier a Xerox, and every cola a Coke? Because these great leading-edge products set the standards and defined the territory for everybody else. Now didn't Zork do that for your line of products? Of course it did. Use it proudly, and thank me for reminding you.
Now, as to the verb required to "do" a zork, we must also keep in mind that zorks are a type of game that people play. Your comparison of zorks to movies was inapt in that movies are a generic medium, consisting of many types of movies. We can just as easily say "Let's play a game" as "Let's go to a movie." The response to either statement is usually, "OK, but which one?" "How about a zork?" will become the classical equivalent of suggesting "Some horror flick with lots of blood and guts."
But if you must insist upon honoring the playing of a zork with a special verb, we have to get beyond the Valspeak mindlessness of "doing a zork." I am inclined to suggest that in the main we "suffer" zorks as innocent and guileless players of these masterpieces. But the phrase "to suffer a zork" lacks absolutely tons of cachet. Redmond Simonsen is supposed to have likened the zorks to "nothing more than refrigerator lights." (Never mind who Redmond Simonsen is.) But to suggest that we "light up a zork" smacks too much of Barry Manilow, not to mention the sensation that the exercise may very well be linked in some way to cancer. No, I think that in keeping with the nature of the beast (not grues, zorks) as being of the puzzle variety of games, we should think in terms of "solving a zork," for that is what we all struggle mightily to do. "To solve a zork" is the challenge Infocom repeatedly offers to the world of the unwise, and we are forever romanced into believing that this or that particular babel fish is indeed within our grasp.
As a last note, now that we have resolved the issue of the naming, what are we to use for the collective noun? As in "a pride of lions." "And here we have a ______ of zorks." Sorry, I am not touching that one with a ten-foot swizzle stick.
Stephen Hall, Arlington, VA
Dear Editor (or Susan or whatever):
The enclosed list of games was found in my clothes dryer. Since I know for a fact that my socks enter the 8th dimension via the dryer, I assume that my counterpart at the other end keeps his important papers in his dryer, thus indirectly proving the existence of Infocom as a metaphysical constant.
Feel free to publish this in The Status Line, but please don't make any real games out of these without paying me lots and lots of real U.S. currency.
Infocom Games from the 8th Dimension:
A Mime Forever Voyaging: You're a mime on the Love Boat and you've got to convince people that you really are drowning in the pool and not just practicing your craft. Try to get saved without talking.
Bali Hai: You're stuck in an elevator and the record is skipping at Muzak. You've got to escape the elevator before you're driven mad. Make your way through the elevator shaft (good place for a grue) and break into the Muzak transmitting station before the city riots.
Deadbeat: You've borrowed money from every loan shark in town and you wouldn't have enough legs for them all to break if you were a millipede. You're broke, in the center of the city, a shark lurks at every corner, and you haven't had lunch. Get out of town by sunset.
Hitchhikers, Guy and Melody: You pick up two hitchhikers who offer you half of their million-dollar inheritance if you get them to Poughkeepsie by nightfall (don't forget you're travelling west to east). Fix the car, beat the cops, and find Guy and Melody when they skip out on you in Poughkeepsie.
In Fidel: Castro has swallowed a cigar! You are shrunken into a teeny weeny little Cuban scientist and must find your way through Fidel's digestive system (yuck!) to put out the fire. You must traverse the lower GI to win. Comes with a copy of Gray's Anatomy.
Beanstalker: You've traded the cows for beans...
Suspenders: It's the Prom and your pants won't stay up. Search through the darkened high school for a pair of suspenders and get back to your date before the band plays "Crimson and Clover."
Trinity: It's a kooky madcap scavenger hunt through the Vatican. Get the Pope's hat to win, but watch out for those lightning bolts!
The Witless: You're marooned on the isle of Crete. That's right, you're surrounded by Cretins! The natives insist on helping you whenever you try to escape and, of course, they always screw things up. Fool the Cretins into not helping you and get off the island.
Snark I: Finish Snark I and you get to buy Snark II.
Snark II: Finish Snark II and you get to buy Snark III.
Snark III: Finish Snark III and we've sold you three Snarks! We win!
Letter Carriers of Phobos
Alan M. Taren, Anytown, USA
All 18 New Zork Times/Status Lines ever
published for just $10
Includes the incredibly rare first 4 issues produced by
the Zork Users Group! (See Mike's mother!)
Hurry. Don't miss out on this incredible offer.
Send your request (including your name & address
along with a check made payable to Infocom, Inc.) to:
125 CambridgePark Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140
Checks only please.
We have plenty of inventory on all titles except Fooblitzky -- which is first-come-first-serve.
The prize: An old Cornerstone package filled with dozens of paper plates, napkins, plastic forks, knives and spoons. It's an exact replica of the picnic basket used by the Implementors for their weekly lunches. Three second prizes: Marathon of the Minds T-Shirts (size Medium only) left over from the marathon in Pittsburgh.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ | | | Win the Imps' Picnic Basket Contest | | | | Please circle or smear jelly on the number that indicates your | | willingness to purchase the product. One: Would not purchase. | | Three: Maybe. Five: Gotta have it. | | | | Great Underground Empire Tech T-Shirts emblazoned 1 2 3 4 5 | | with the never before seen GUE Tech school emblem. | | | | Same as above only in a sweat shirt. 1 2 3 4 5 | | | | A beer mug with the same never before seen GUE Tech 1 2 3 4 5 | | school emblem. | | | | An Infocom T-Shirt. Not game specific. 1 2 3 4 5 | | | | An Infocom Calendar with significant dates from 1 2 3 4 5 | | various games. | | | | A Zork T-Shirt. 1 2 3 4 5 | | | | A (baseball style) cap with the Infocom logo on it. 1 2 3 4 5 | | | | A (baseball style) cap with the Zork logo on it. 1 2 3 4 5 | | | | Bumper stickers. 1 2 3 4 5 | | | | A poster of _______________________________________. 1 2 3 4 5 | | | | Name: ________________________________________________________ | | Address: ________________________________________________________ | | ________________________________________________________ | | | | Rules: All entries must be submitted on this form or on a | | photocopy of this form or on sheep skin. Entries must be received | | by July 31, 1987. Limit one entry per person. All entries must be | | mailed seperately. Void where prohibited by law already. Send to: | | Infocom, Win the Imps Picnic Basket Contest, 125 CambridgePark | | Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140. | |_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _|
After the tremendous success of our first collaboration, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (see InfoNews Roundup on page 3), we have seriously considered other collaborations. We'd like your input.
Please write in order of preference your top three choices of writers with whom Infocom should try to collaborate:
1. ______________________________________________________________ 2. ______________________________________________________________ 3. ______________________________________________________________Another possible future route are games based on historical, legendary, or fictional characters (e.g. Napoleon, or King Arthur). (Please, no characters from the last 50 years.)
Once again, in order of preference, what are your top three choices for historical/fictional characters:
1. ______________________________________________________________ 2. ______________________________________________________________ 3. ______________________________________________________________Other Suggestions:
_________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ Name ____________________________________________________________
|Send to:||Infocom, Inc.
Paula's Poll #3
125 CambridgePark Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140
Answer: To order any of our products or check on order status, call our fulfillment house at 1-800-262-6868, or write them at the following address:
Infocom, Inc. P.O. Box 478, Cresskill, NJ 07626For technical assistance with our products, call the entertainment hotline at 1-617-576-3190 for help with any of the games, or the Cornerstone hotline at 1-617-576-1851. You can write to us at:
Infocom, Inc. 125 CambridgePark Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140(If you have old packaging, please note that we've moved from the old Wheeler St. address.) Remember, we don't have a hotline for hints on the games. But you can order InvisiClues hintbooks by calling the 800 ordering number above.
Question: I lost a piece of my game. How can I get a replacement?
Answer: You need to send proof of purchase, along with a check or money order for $2.00 per piece, $5.00 per manual, to the Cambridge address above. Proof of purchase consists of one of the following: the master game disk, an internal game element, or a sales receipt with the name of the game on it. However, we do not sell the entire package separately from the disk.
Question: Can I buy Cornerstone manuals separately?
Answer: No. Since the price of Cornerstone is so low, we feel that it's now affordable to own several copies for your home or office. And since we've removed the copy protection from our disks, the only protection we have against software piracy is by keeping the software 'bundled'.
Question: I think my disk is defective. What should I do?
Answer: Send the disk only, NOT the entire package, along with a note explaining the problem to our Cambridge office. If you are within our 90-day warranty period, include your sales receipt and we'll replace the disk free of charge if it is defective. If you are beyond the warranty period, we require a $5.00 fee per game for processing and handling.
Question: I had a Commodore, and recently traded it in for an IBM PC. I really don't want to go out and buy another set of the same Infocom games for my new PC. Is there any way of exchanging my old Commodore disks for IBM disks?
Answer: We will exchange game disks for a different computer version for $10.00 per disk. Just send your disks and check or money order to our Cambridge address. Please note that we will only exchange disks for different computer versions of the same game. We do not exchange for a different game.
Question: What's the safest way to mail in my diskette?
Answer: You can purchase a floppy-disk mailer in a stationery store, or simply put some stiff pieces of cardboard around the disk and put it in a manila envelope. We suggest writing 'DO NOT BEND' and 'MAGNETIC MEDIA ENCLOSED -- DO NOT X-RAY' on the front of the envelope. You can send it through regular first-class mail for about $0.40 postage.
Congratulations on reaching your tenth birthday! I knew that one day you would join the ranks of this long-lived group of computer games. Everyone here in Washington is happy for you.
Why, it seems like only a decade ago that you were born, small and riddled with bugs, inside a mainframe at a great technological university. Your proud parents -- Bruce, Dave, Marc, and Tim -- watched you struggle to your feet, parse a command, then execute it! And not just once, but over and over! Soon you had visitors from all around this great land of ours, from sea to shining sea. Little did anyone know, at that point in time, how you would grow and multiply and become commercial, how you would visit over a million computers, how you would become so famous that, well, even I would write you a letter. Here's hoping that you and I both will see another decade pass.
It all started when Hollywood Dave Anderson returned from the Marathon of the Minds in Los Angeles yakking about a lounge he had been to which featured hermit crab racing. Several employees kicked the idea around for a few days and decided to attend an auction. (Well, actually Hollywood went to the pet store.) The crabs were auctioned off to employees at a weekly Friday party where a race track, Drink'em Downs, had been constructed.
Next it was time for the racing to begin. But not before high tech was brought to bear on the age-old sport of hermit crab racing. Tester Gary Brennan set up Lotus 1-2-3 to handle parimutuel wagering. Resident hacker Tim Anderson constructed a database using Cornerstone to keep track of the crabs' statistics. And Hollywood put those stats in the Weekly Racing Form with the help of PageMaker.
The first and second races zipped by as racing fans wagered and eyed the paddock area. Then it came time for the third race, the feature race of the day -- The Drink'em Downs Cup. Track announcer Hollywood presented the crabs to the fans. "Crab number one, Dr. Funk of Tahiti, owned and trained by the Five-0 Syndicate (Max Buxton, Tom Veldran, Tomas Bok and Hollywood). Crab number two, Itchy, owned and trained by Debbie Reilly and Gabrielle Accardi of Kwell Acres. Number three, Lurking Grue, owned and trained by Steve Meretsky of Stevo Stables. Number four, Ima, owned and trained by Linda Carlough and the MSPCA (She wasn't too hot on this racing idea). Crab five, Hold the Celery, owned and trained by Diane'n'Harry (Diane Murlock and Harry Regan). And number six, Form Over Substance, owned and trained by Mike Dornbrook of Green Acres," stated the announcer.
The crabs were placed in the starting gate as the announcer's voice called, "One minute to post time!" The wagering was furious as fans hurried to get their bets down on their favorite crab. A minute passed, the wagering ceased as the starting gate was raised. First out of the gate was Hold the Celery, followed by Form Over Substance and Ima. Dr. Funk, Itchy and Lurking Grue hadn't come out of their shells yet. Down along the back stretch it was Hold the Celery out in front by a claw, followed closely by Form Over Substance. Ima was now making a move along the inside rail. Back at the starting gate the others had not moved. Now they were coming out of the turn and Ima had taken the lead. Battling down the stretch it was Ima followed by Form Over Substance and Hold the Celery. At the wire it was Ima in 1:16, followed by Form Over Substance and Hold the Celery. The others never left the gate. Linda was awarded the Drink'em Downs Cup. Ima paid $.24 to win on a $.10 bet.
Since that first day there have been many races at Drink'em Downs. Yes, even some races where all the crabs leave the starting gate.
[Scan of five pictures should go here.]
Photos: (left) An unidentified hand helps Form Over Substance pose for the camera. (upper left) Diane and Harry pose with the Drink'em Downs Cup which they won recently. (above) A publicity shot from the Drink'em Downs Public Relations Office featuring stampeding crabs and excited racing fans. (upper right) Yet another shot from the public relations office featuring a near photo finish. (right) Track announcer Hollywood with track timer Stu Galley.
"It's not a game," says Swigart. Nor, apparently, is it interactive fiction as we have come to know it. "There is no parsing language in Portal," he adds, "no puzzles to solve."
Then what is it?
"It's a computer novel."
And that is...?
"A novel that can be told only through the medium of the computer."
If you could expand on that...
Swigart says "The narrative, the story, is organized like a database of real information, by category -- historical data, facts about characters, and so on. In this way, a person's experience of Portal imitates the style of traditional kinds of computer use. You uncover the story section by section, layer by layer, learning how parts of the story relate to other parts."
So this is interactive fiction then?
"Neither game nor adventure," writes Bob Lindstrom in A+ Magazine, "Portal represents an entirely new form of entertainment software."
To its author, Portal is the dawn of the new in more ways than one. Says Swigart, "Portal is a simulation of future computers -- AI systems that will be able to process, filter, and organize information for the user as an individual with very particular, even quirky, needs.
"A computer that can forecast the future could also tell plausible stories about the future -- predictions cast in narrative form. Futurists of today, who realized the importance of intuition some time ago, already engage in this kind of 'narrative' forecasting."
Get the feeling that Swigart has hung around with futurists? He has. In a carrer that has included a stint as a textbook salesman, a Ph.D. in comparative literature, and a wide range of poetry, essays, stories, computer game scripts and nine novels, he has also written futurist scenarios for the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, California. His latest novel, Vector (Bluejay Books, 1986), has been described as a "biotechnology thriller."
The plot of Portal is reminiscent of many science fiction stories. The year is 2106. You -- the user, or player, or reader, whatever -- are a lone space traveler who has returned from a 100-year star voyage to an Earth devoid of human life. Plants thrive, birds sing, animals burrow but no people. You find a single operating system (yours, of course) connected to 12 Worldnet "dataspaces."
As you begin to dip into the data available, you soon make contact with a biological computer named Homer. The sole survivor of a vanished civilization, Homer is your link to the past and your conduit to the future.
Together, you and Homer set out to solve the mystery of an unpeopled world. Your knowledge grows organically. As you uncover bits of data in one category, you're granted access to more and more data in other, related categories. And Homer is enabled to "remember" more and more, as his understanding of the past grows with yours.
You learn, for example, about 21st-century geopolitical affairs; about the fantastic technology of the era, including neurophage weapons, agrobotics, nightvision thermography, and Mozart, the great aesthetic application of neural induction; and about Portal, the phenomenon at the heart of the mystery.
Portal is on two or three disks, depending on what kind of computer you have (Activision has released Portal for Amiga, Apple II and Macintosh, Commodore, and MS-DOS machines). Also in the box is a "Prologue," written in "your" voice; a map of the Intercorp Council World Administrative Regions, dated 14 August 2077; and a copy of Worldnet Emergency Operating Instructions, dated 11 November 2088. These are your tools for exploring the world of Portal, and solving its mystery.
As you say to yourself in the "Prologue," "I will read the instructions, and then I will try to find out what has happened to the world, where the people have gone, and if I must remain alone for the rest of my life...I have been too long without other people."
In developing Portal, Swigart envisioned a future, like any science fiction writer. Here's the twist, though. Placing us at the end of the Earth's future, Portal challenges us to reconstruct that future as the past, so that a new future may begin to unfold.
It also challenges our notions of what "interactivity" in computer fiction can be, and of what "narrative" is, in any kind of medium, and how it works. As futuristic as Portal is, it borrows much from traditional storytelling. Readers will not find themselves stumped by difficult puzzles, rather the story unfolds itself with some gentle coaxing. Can interactive storytelling work without challenging puzzles or conflict resolution? Portal proves it can.
The correct answer to the puzzle: the name of the room where you would end up after trying to move consecutively in those eighteen directions. You could choose any of the three games for your answer. The answers to the trivia questions:
|1. S||7. N||13. S|
|2. S||8. N||14. NE|
|3. NE||9. N||15. W|
|4. NW||10. W||16. E|
|5. W||11. N||17. N|
|6. E||12. E||18. W|
The solutions, based on those answers: Dam Lobby for Zork I, or Library Lobby for Planetfall, or Fore Cabin for Infidel.
There were a total of 524 entries (the most since Puzzle Number 2!) of which 141 were correct (26.9%). 401 of the entrants (76.5%) traced their path through Zork I; Planetfall was chosen by 73 people (13.9%); the remaining 50 entrants used Infidel (9.5%).
Just looking at the Zork I entries, the most common wrong answers were Chasm (90 entries), Deep Canyon (50), Round Room (30), and East-West Passage (28), but nearly every room on the southern half of the Zork I map was mentioned at least once. Six people gave the unacceptably incomplete answer "Lobby." Other entrants, unsatisfied with the rooms in Zork I, created their own rooms: "East-West Room," "Echo Chamber," and "Deep Chasm." The two most interesting entries: "Mailbox" and "You can't go that way."
Since there were more than 25 correct answers, a drawing was held to determine the T-shirt winners. The drawing attracted a record-size Puzzle Drawing Audience of 2.
The results: Howard Scully, Mt. Clemens, MI; Marcus Johnstone, Belen, NM; Paul Feigelman, Bayside, NY; Lucas Campbell, Lexington, KY; Micah Barclay, Davison, MI; Imtiaz Rauf, Falls Church, VA; Rawson Chaplin, Wellesley, MA; James Lessard, Bloomington, MN; Susan Hewett, Greenville, NC; Betty Balas, Akron, OH; Robert Brock Jr., Annapolis, MD; Daniel Sullivan Jr., New Kensington, PA; Crystal Armonas, Mentor, OH; Jacquie Buchanan, Canyon Lake, CA; Lael Sharp, Logan, UT; Carl Walter, North Granby, CT; Ted Hall, Dothan, AL; Alex Joneth, Raleigh, NC; Mike Lahey, Munster, IN; David Powers, Christiansburg, VA; Doug Gilchrist, Bath, ME; Donald Gasser, Napa, CA; Mark Joengen, Springfield, OR; John Silvestri, Addison, IL; Gary Vaughn, Atlanta, GA.
Our congratulations to all the winners.
Next, figure out the second clue, and put that word into the diagram beginning at the box labelled "2." Notice that the first word and the second word overlap! All the words that go into the spiral will overlap, sharing one or more letters.
Here's a tiny example, in case you're confused:
Answer: _________________________________________________________ Name: _________________________________________________________ Address: _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ T-Shirt size (S, M, L, XL): __________Puzzle Rules:
|Prize:||The Status Line Puzzle Winner T-Shirt|
|Send to:||Infocom, Inc.
The Status Line Puzzle
125 CambridgePark Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140
Congratulations to the winners for this issue. If you want to try your hand at cartooning, maybe you should enter our ongoing cartoon contest! Just send your cartoon, in black ink on white paper, to:
The Status Line CartoonsIf we print your cartoon, we'll send you a free game, so be sure to include the title of the game you'd like, the computer system that you own, your address, and your phone number. Please don't fold your cartoon, let the Post Office do it. All submissions become property of Infocom.
125 CambridgePark Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140
Stu Galley, Elizabeth Langozy,
Steve Meretzky, Curtis Montague,
Jon Palace and Gayle Syska
For the desktop publishing cartel:
Hollywood Dave Anderson, Tom Veldran
© 1987 Infocom Incorporated
125 CambridgePark Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140
Zork, Enchanter, Deadline, The Witness, Starcross, Suspended, Planetfall,
Infidel, Seastalker, Cutthroats, Suspect and Wishbringer are registered
trademarks of Infocom Inc. Hollywood Hijinx, Moonmist, Leather Goddesses of
Phobos, Trinity, Ballyhoo, Sorcerer, Spellbreaker, A Mind Forever Voyaging,
Bureaucracy, Stationfall, The Lurking Horror, Cornerstone, Fooblitzky,
Tales of Adventure, Interactive Fiction Plus and InvisiClues are trademarks
of Infocom Inc. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a trademark of
Douglas Adams. Portal is a trademark of Activision Inc.
Thanks to André St-Aubin for transcribing and HTML-izing this issue.