Friday, April 18, 2008

Milliways has a great article about the development process, such as it was, of Milliways, Infocom's vaporware sequel to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, now slightly less vaporware due to a playable early version.

I haven't tried the game yet, but I wonder what it'd be like if someone from the contemporary IF community took it over. The question, then, would be who? My first choice would probably be Nick Montfort, though Jon Ingold or even Graham Nelson himself would probably do an excellent job. (This is all idle speculation, of course, as there are all kinds of intellectual property issues in the way of such a thing ever happening.)

There are also interesting design ideas, such as a MEANWHILE command to switch viewpoints and several proposed methods of scene-changing. The puzzle design is definitely from before The Craft of Adventure, even before the more player-friendly LucasArts games. In the first game synopsis, the notes for the very first puzzle state that "this is a nasty trick puzzle because if you solve it, you lose the game." (Despite this, unlike the author of the article I like the first synopsis better than the second. A Barry Manilow CD is a very specific cultural reference that isn't particularly entertaining and feels out of place among the intergalactic weirdness.)

The other thing that struck me in the article was the time involved in creating these games in ZIL. Amy Briggs complained that it was impossible, even with a completed script (I'm not sure if "script" means general plot points, or all the main text, or what), to code a game that size in nine months. And yet it seems that, these days, that's about the median for a comp-length (i.e., ~2 hours to complete) written by an amateur in their free time. I suspect an adaptation that's already got a script Which makes me wonder - what if Infocom had had Inform at their disposal, rather than ZIL? Maybe they'd have been able to produce even more great works. Then again, people asked "What if George Lucas had CGI at his disposal?" and what we got were Episodes I-III.

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