Monday, December 25, 2017

Blender 2017: "Cool Dads / Cooking / In the Apocalypse"

I was feeling bad that the entire calendar year of 2017 was on the verge of having passed by without a single update to this blog. It's true, I have plans to migrate activity tangential to its mission to The CYOA Addict, but we're not quite there yet... and I did have a couple of pieces in the queue suitable for this blog, if only I could square away the time needed to do the (time consuming) manual HTML conversion. Well, here we are, in the Christmas break. Consider the time... squared.

This one requires a bit of context to be understood, and even then the understanding only goes so far. As part of a wholesale case lot of revivals of activities I was obsessed with in my callow youth, I brought back from the dead "the Blender" improvised computer art IRC competition. It works kind of like comedy night at the improv -- you take suggestions from the crowd and assign competitors to create works engaging those themes, typically in the form "a person / in a place / doing an activity", under a time limit. Typically entries took the form of visual artworks, but through the compo's storied history we also had winning songs and stories ... and in the 2017 instalment, we received a rare treat: a program. Indeed, it was an MS-DOS executable with BASIC source code, unlocking a "choose your own adventure" scenario drawing not only on the assigned subjects, but also on the somewhat peculiar small talk going on in the compo's IRC channel before and during the competition, including chat with Dutch computer artists and one proud suggestion-contributor letting his kinky flag fly, yielding all the "hot werewolf babe" business seemingly out of left field. We didn't think that these suggestions would make fr the best instead making the compo officially about "cool dads / cooking / in the apocalypse" but this particular entry incorporated the unused suggestions anyhow for kicks, shaming the kinkmeister and confusing the heck out of posterity.

The author, underground computer artscene stalwart Mel Farr Suppastar, took home second place for this entry when probably he should have won top honours, in some misguided attempt to redress how his story that won the previous year's competition probably in retrospect should have been rated second. But despite having the gold stolen, his frivolous program was nonetheless a substantial undertaking deserving of a wider audience, and so I have marked up its source code allowing viewers to "play" through the game in their web browsers in a limited fashion (alas, I have excised the rudimentary sounds and visual effects) by clicking on their choice of underlined links.

10 CLEAR PRINT "GET READY MOTHERFUCKERS" PRINT PRINT "ITS BLENDER 2017" PRINT "en hallo aan al mijn belgische fans!" PRINT "TOPICS: Goosing Up / Your Mom / On IRC" PRINT "...wait" PRINT "TOPICS: Zombie / Werewolves / ...boobies" PRINT " " PRINT " damnit" PRINT " " PRINT "TOPICS: Cool Dads / Cooking / The Apocalypse" PRINT "Onderwerpen: hippe vaders, het koken, de apocalyps" PRINT " " PRINT " SUCCESS" PRINT PRINT " by...Mel Farr Suppastar" PRINT " (fb: Willie Noveck)" PRINT " Please insert Disk 2 into Drive b:"

20 CLS PRINT " please note there are dozens of endings so definitely worth a few replays" PRINT " OK new phone who dis ? " PRINT " (A) a cool Dad" PRINT " (B) a cool non-dad" PRINT " (C) a non-cool dad" PRINT " (D) neither cool nor dad"
21 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 100 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 35 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 45 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 55 INPUT "please input an A,B,C, or D...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 21

35 REM cool non dads CLS PRINT "What makes you so sure that you're cool?" PRINT " (A) I'm lying, I'm not actully cool" PRINT " (B) I tell stories that always start w/ me smoking a cigarette" PRINT " (C) My body temperature is unusually low" PRINT " (D) Skinny Jeans" INPUT ""; x$
36 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 45 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 40 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 40 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 38 INPUT "please input an A,B,C, or D...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 36

38 REM Not really cool non-dads PRINT "You die in the apocalypse. no one mourns you." ENZ$ = "Unhappy #1" GOTO 13800

40 REM COOL non-dad CLS PRINT " I have to admit. you are a pretty cool guy. pretty chill. you're having a pretty chill day. Your girl...who is super sexy. she's a werewolf with big `boobies' as sudndeath would say that are covered in fur, she takes your hand and says "; _ PRINT "`hey cool daddy i love you. Let's cook something.' And because you're super cool you're like `naw...beef' and she knows that means `lets go to the deli' so you go to the deli and you die in the apocalypse that you werent paying attention to"; _ PRINT "because you don't care about that shit. But you're not even mad. everyone else freaks out and you just light a cig and you're like `fuck yeah.' but like not even that excited just pleasantly pleased." ENZ$ = "neutral #1" GOTO 13800

45 REM non cool dad CLS PRINT _ " It's a normal day. You wake up, spend 10 seconds trying to see if your partner wants to sleep with you. There's a definitive no (I mean you're not particularly cool). No big deal. you saw that coming. So you go to cook breakfast. But then"; PRINT "you're like `eh fuck it - cool dads cook...i'm not a cool dad' so you don't cook you decide to pick up some carryout. you bring it back. no big deal. you're sitting around the table not even enjoying breakfast with the fam (you're trying to" PRINT _ "read the washington post like a total fuckin nerd. anyhow, you look out the window and see the apocalypse coming. for some reason, you outlive your family by about 8 seconds, so you get to watch them die before you yourself die. pretty fucking" PRINT "brutal. " ENZ$ = "unhappy #2" GOTO 13800

55 REM neither cool nor dad PRINT PRINT " I have some shite news for're not even doing anything interesting when the apocalypse hits. Not even idling on IRC. You die in a terrifying firestorm" ENZ$ = "unhappy #3" GOTO 13800

100 CLS PRINT PRINT "Fuck yeah it's cool dads time." PRINT PRINT "Where dat wife at? Where dem kids at?" PRINT " (a) Sleepin while I'm creepin!" PRINT " (b) with me while we're out to dinner at this siik ass restaurant" PRINT " (C) oh no no no...i'm divorced...but in a cooool way" INPUT ""; x$
101 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 120 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 102 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 1000 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 101

102 REM Cool dad at dinner CLS PRINT _ " Ok you're @ `Posh Spice' a 90s themed restaurant in 1980s calgary's electric avenue. All the sell-out yuppies are there. you even spot a young justin trudeau a phew tables away. Your waiter, chatter68 rolls up and says `hey cool dad, i guess"; PRINT "you didn't feel like cooking tonight.' Everyone has a hearty laugh. The flames score a goal. Just then the apocalypse hits. Everyone dies instantaneously." PRINT ENZ$ = "unhappy #4" GOTO 13800

120 REM Cool dad crepin CLS PRINT _ " yeeeaahh boy. It's 10:22pm. The wife's asleep. The kids are asleep. You're just thinking about what to do when your phone starts blowing up. three texts! One is from ya fellow cool dad, Radman `watching hockey at the spot! Come through' One"; PRINT " is a text from that furry werewolf hottie Raquel. `Just watchin netflix' she says. Final text is from Warpus it's all like `gonna go to a cool show you should come.' WHAT WILL YOU DO" PRINT " (a) Meet Radman at the bar" PRINT " (b) see if Raquel will invite you over" PRINT " (c) meet Warpus at `cool show'" PRINT " (d) apply for a homestead exemptions" INPUT x$
121 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 140 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 400 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 700 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 130 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 121

130 REM Apply for a homested exemption CLS PRINT _ "You call up your accountant Rai-Chan to discuss the ins and outs of the homestead exemption. he starts telling you stories about all the young werewolf pups hes bangin, being a fellow cool dad and all. you fall asleep on your loveseat with the"; PRINT _ "phone in your ear. when the apocalypse hits, the radiation you had already been exposed to protected you. you wake up and find that you have become a mutant cyborg zombie in post-apocalyptic calgary. with a single metallic tear, you bid adieu"; PRINT "to your friends, family and side chick." ENZ$ = "ambiguous ending #1" GOTO 13800

140 REM Cool dad meeting radman at bar PRINT " You meet Radman at Le Cinq, a hipsterish hockey bar on Electric Avenue in Calgary. Everyone is nicely dressed but rooting passionately for those flames. You're in your finest flannel of course. As you get there you're" PRINT "getting kind of hungry. What do you do?" PRINT " (a) Order some PUB GRUB" PRINT " (b) Reveal to Radman that im hungry even tho it might damage his opinion of me" PRINT " (c) Hit on these fine werewolf chicks celebrating a birthday over in the other booth, courageously ignoring my feelings of hunger" INPUT x$
141 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 155 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 235 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 315 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 141

155 PRINT PRINT _ " `Barkeep!' You shout `what will I be having to eat this fine eve??!?' The barkeep says `Bangers + Mash w/ a side of dick-o's in oil!' A delight! You watch the flames score a goal as your bangers arrive. They are delicious! You are enjoying" PRINT " them as the apocalypse hits...maybe you should've considered cooking. didn't think about that did you. jesus fucking christ did it even occur to you that the topic is cool dads cooking during the apocalypse?!?!?? What the fuck is wrong" PRINT " with you. Have fun at eternal bandcamp you fucking moron." ENZ$ = "unnecessarily hostile ending #1" GOTO 13800

235 REM reveal to radman PRINT " You look @ radman. he looks like a short Thor and is rockin some sick calgary flames apparel and sunglasses even though its 11:15pm. you say `hey radman' there's something i've gotta tell you." PRINT " `sup holmes'" PRINT " `Hey...I think im hungry.' He stares at you. minutes pass. finally he says `ok well how about after the game ends we go back to my place and cook up some bangers and mash.' You jizz a little cuz fuck it the wife and kids are" PRINT "asleep and we're talking bangers + Mash."

236 PRINT "You get to Radman's house. Shit's lit son. The meditation room is bigger than you remember. The ficus plants are TIGHT! His collection of women's shoes in various sizes is well organized and displayed. Does he have a tissue box. Fuck" PRINT "yes he has a tissue box. Radman looks at you, with a tear in his eye and says: what'll it be?" PRINT " (a) Bangers + MASH" PRINT " (b) lets make mushroom chocs and trip balls" PRINT " (c) This pineapple pizza he's got in his fridge" INPUT x$
237 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 245 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 265 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 283 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 237

245 PRINT PRINT "Fuck yeah bangers + mash. you're workin on COOKING UP THAT GRAVY when you are struck by SOME VERY WELL TRAINED GRAVY ROBBERS. Fuck fuck fuck. before you know it, they've snatched up that Gravy. Thats the bad news, the good news is that" PRINT "their potential inability to snatch up that gravy was what was going to cause the apocalypse, so by choosing to cook bangers and mash, you've sAVED THE the universe from apocalypse!!!!!! Unfortunately none of you will ever know that" PRINT "Your life goes on as essentially GREAT because you're a COOL DAD." ENZ$ = "Happy Ending #2" GOTO 13800

265 REM mushrooms @ Radmans PRINT PRINT " damn you think `making mushroom chocolates is way easier than i thought' as you add your finely chopped shrooms to the still very hot chocolate. you try to mix them in as evenly as possible because...dosages and what not and when done" PRINT "you pour the molds into a pan . you are about to put them in a fridge to cool when raman says `bro.' You look out the window. holy shit. it looks like the apocalypse is approaching" PRINT "`looks like we're in for some crazy weather' radman says. `I wish we had some ACiD.'" PRINT "what do you do?" PRINT " (a) eat some mushrooms so that you can be trippin ballz on this crazy weather" PRINT " (b) try to find some ACiD" PRINT " (c) say fuck it and resolve to meet the apocalypse sober." INPUT x$
266 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 270 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 275 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 280 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 266

270 REM SHROOMS @ RADMANS PRINT " The apocalypse hits. BUT NOT BEFORE THE SHROOMS DID. and it is epic. The colors man. The colors. Fortunately, you realize that the apocalypse is one of only 4 dimensions, and dimensions are actually an illusion. The 6th through 8th" PRINT "dimensions are totally fine. Where will you travel? " PRINT " (a) 6th Dimension" PRINT " (b) 7th Dimension" PRINT " (C) 8th Dimension" INPUT x$
271 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 2000 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 2100 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 2200 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 271

275 REM ACID @ RADMANS PRINT " Turns out RADMAN has some ACiD on iCE. Unfortunately it takes way too long to kick in and you're still sober when the apocalypse hits. you die not even trippin balls yet." ENZ$ = "Unhappy ending #5" GOTO 13800

280 REM Sober Apocalypse PRINT " Radman looks at you `well if you don't want to take ACiD' you can get out of my house. but i'll tell you, there's a chrono trigger gimme your phone. and radman inputs the coordinates to the chrono trigger." PRINT " Will you: " PRINT " (A) resolve to die in the apocalypse w/ your family" PRINT " (B) go to the chrono trigger" INPUT x$
281 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 282 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 288 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 281

282 PRINT PRINT "You wake up your family just in time to die in each others arms as the apocalypse hits." ENZ$ = "Bittersweet ending #1" GOTO 13800

283 REM Pineapple Pizza @ Radmans PRINT PRINT " The gross pineapple pizza is cooking when Radman looks out the window. `Dude, it's the apocalypse.'" PRINT " `huh?' You look out the window and see that it is indeed the apocalypse." PRINT " `hey bro' Radman says. `I have an interdimensional portal in my basement, what's say we travel to another dimension?" PRINT " You go down to the interdimensional portal. It has dimensions all the way from 1-138. Radman says he'll let you pick the dimension." INPUT dimen IF dimen < 3 THEN GOTO 284 IF dimen = 5 OR dimen = 4 THEN GOTO 287 IF dimen = 6 THEN GOTO 2000 IF dimen = 7 THEN GOTO 2100 IF dimen = 8 THEN GOTO 2200 IF dimen = 138 THEN GOTO 285 IF dimen GOTO 286

284 REM dimension engulfed in the apocalypse PRINT " my man... you are jumping into this interdimensional portal to ESCAPE the apocalypse. why would you pick 1 of the 1st 3 dimensions. You are cooked by the apocalypse as the portal takes you nowhere." ENZ$ = "Unhappy Ending #idgaf" GOTO 13800

285 REM you ascend to godhood and win PRINT " You jump through the portal to the 138th dimension and find you are staring at an 80x50 screen terminal. Lines of code are displayed infinitely in all directions. The code of the multiverse! You notice there are lots of GOTO statements" PRINT "because the previous programmer is either unskilled/or in a hurry. You can see all the choices laid out before you. You can code whatever future you want for yourself or anyone else. THE POWER IS YOURS, PROGRAMMER/GOD/PROTAGONIST!!!" ENZ$ = "God Ending #1" GOTO 13800

286 REM YOU CANT HANDLE THIS DIMENSION AS A MERE SOBER COOL DAD PRINT "" PRINT "you have made a big mistake...." PRINT "" PRINT "your sober self was not meant to handle higher dimensional travel, cool dad or otherwise. The multiverse is not meant for mere mortals. But it is too late to turn back. Your being explodes unable to take in the glory of the multiverse" ENZ$ = "Unhappy ending #6" GOTO 13800

287 REM Warp to random spot in the game PRINT PRINT "whirr"; PRINT "buzz"; PRINT "click"; PRINT " the timer begins whirring and buzzing and goozling and sends you to...." RANDOMIZE TIMER z = INT(RND(1) * limt) + 1 IF z = 1 GOTO 20 IF z = 2 GOTO 35 IF z = 3 GOTO 40 IF z = 4 GOTO 45 IF z = 5 GOTO 55 IF z = 6 GOTO 100 IF z = 7 GOTO 102 IF z = 8 GOTO 120 IF z = 9 GOTO 130 IF z = 10 GOTO 140 IF z = 11 GOTO 155 IF z = 12 GOTO 236 IF z = 13 GOTO 245 IF z = 14 GOTO 265 IF z = 15 GOTO 270 IF z = 16 GOTO 275 IF z = 17 GOTO 315 IF z = 18 GOTO 400 IF z = 19 GOTO 700 IF z = 20 GOTO 1000 GOTO 287

288 REM Go to chrono trigger no Radman PRINT " You find the Chrono Trigger [!!] Unfortunately it seems to have only a few presets programmed in. You can go to one of the following: " PRINT " (a) 1990s Seattle " PRINT " (b) China during the cultural revolution" PRINT " (c) 1840s Yorkshire" PRINT " (d) 1887 Lahore, India" INPUT x$
289 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 290 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 291 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 292 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 293 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 289

290 REM 1990s seattle PRINT " Oh my god you totally nailed this shit! I don't even want to get into it. 1990s seattle. Okay lemme break down how well this is going to work for you. First off you're gonna be there for Grunge, then you're gonna be there for the amazing" PRINT "Supersonics Playoff run in the mid 90s. Also you invested in starbucks. You become so rich that when the apocalypse buy it off. You buy off the fucking apocalypse w/ starbucks stock. Nice work!" ENZ$ = "Happying Ending #idgaf" GOTO 13800

291 REM China during the cultural revolution PRINT _ " What were you thinking? You don't no mandarin!?!?! And you gotta be really careful about tryign to be cool, Mao might see it as subversive and outlaw it. So you spend the rest of the 70s walking an extraordinarily fine line between parlaying" PRINT "your coolness into privileges and not being so cool that the communists are concerned. ITS STRESSFUL. You finally flee to south korea when you realize the stress is accelerating your balding. Things pick up after that though." ENZ$ = "Ambiguous ending #8" GOTO 13800

292 REM 1840s yorkshire PRINT " You go to 1840s Yorkshire and you crush it. Because you are aware of both showering and brushing your teeth, you are the only non smelly person with nice teeth in the entire city. YOU ARE SO COOL LETS JUST SAY IT WORKS OUT VERY WELL" PRINT "for you until you get measles and they can't treat it because it's 1840 yorkshire." ENZ$ = "Sexy Ending #3" GOTO 13800

293 REM 1887 Lahore, India PRINT " You go to Lahore India and die of boredom." ENZ$ = "Unnecessarily hostile ending #4" GOTO 13800

315 REM at bar hit on these fine ass werewolves PRINT " Holy shit these are some fine-ass werewolves. They've all got beautiful long hair and are wearing sexy outfits that really accentuate your fur. youre getting a boner. Whats your angle?" PRINT " (a) Hey it's a birthday I love birthdays!" PRINT " (b) Hey wolves what is your preferred 8bit technology to emulate?" PRINT " (c) Would you like to save money on your mortgage?" INPUT x$
316 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 336 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 356 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 376 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 316

336 REM Birthday [bat mitzvah] PRINT "The super hot werewolves make polite conversation with you but they really don't care to get to know you (they must have bad taste) you decide to head back to Radman's to cook" PRINT GOTO 236

356 REM Werewolves preferred 8 bit technology to emulate [sexy times?] PRINT "The werewolves are totally into this discussion of retro technology. They invite you (& radman) back to their place, but, they also want you to cook for them. Not a problem. As you're cooking you see the apocalypse coming, but the Werewolves" PRINT "have decided to keep you and Radman around as cooks/lovers in the post-apocalyptic future. And...hand jobs...all over the place." ENZ$ = "Sexy Ending #2" GOTO 13800

376 REM Werewolves Mortgage [eat you] PRINT "You explain to these fine fine werewolves how you can help them refinance their mortgage and....they cook you and eat you. Cool Dad is getting cooked BEFORE the apocalypse. Idiot" ENZ$ = "Unhappy ending #11" GOTO 13800

400 REM Cool dad seeing if raquel will invite me over PRINT "Ok so you're going to see if you can score with that hot werewolf babe raquel. What's the plan" PRINT " (a) Head on over!" PRINT " (b) Text her that you're heading over then head over." PRINT " (c) Ask her if she wants you to come over" INPUT x$
401 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 410 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 510 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 610 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 401

410 REM heading over to raquel PRINT "" PRINT " You're a cool dad. you don't need permission. You show up to Raquel's house unannouced or you try to at any rate. She thinks its an intruder, pounces on you and kills you. Jesus christ man what were you thinking youre entering a" PRINT "werewolf's turf unannounced. You might be a cool dad, but you're not smart. You don't even live to s ee the apocalypse." ENZ$ = "Unhappy ending #10" GOTO 13800

510 REM Texting and heading over to raquels PRINT "" PRINT " You tell her really smoothly that you're heading over to show her something, and when you get there you show her -- it's your elbow!!! Dude you are totally getting laid tonight but I can't get into the details because this comp is ending" PRINT "in like 20 minutes but oh my god, shit is really `cookin' lets just say when the apocalypse comes its not the only thing that comes." ENZ$ = "sexy ending #1" GOTO 13800

610 REM Ask her if she wants you to come over PRINT "" PRINT " You ask her if she wants you to come over. She's like `no fuck off.' Then faxes you a picture of her butt just so you can feel even shittier about the hole thing [pun intended]. You're lamenting how poorly your night is going when" PRINT "the apocalypse strikes destroying everything" ENZ$ = "Unhappy Ending #9" GOTO 13800

700 REM meet warpus at cool show. PRINT " Ok you're going to electric avenue to meet warpus how are you dressing." PRINT " (a) Scarves, Tank Top, Suit Jacket, Sunglasses" PRINT " (b) Scarves, Tank Top, Suit Jacket, Sunglasses" PRINT " (c) Scarves, Tank Top, Suit Jacket, Sunglasses" PRINT " (d) Scarves, Tank Top, Suit Jacket, Sunglasses" INPUT x$ PRINT "

Great choice. You look COOL AS HECK. You're rocking scarves, a tank top, a suit jacket and sunglasses. You head down to coconut joe's on electric avenue. The Hot Nasties are performing their hit `I am a confused teenager' Warpus" PRINT "is easy to spot as he's 7 feet tall, wearing a colonial english wig, has 3 safety pins in his ears and is hitting the guy in front of him with a chicken. hes also smoking a virginia slim. What do you do?" PRINT " (a) bum a virginia slim" PRINT " (b) steal the chicken" PRINT " (c) just enjoy the show" PRINT " (d) ignore warpus and hit on some hot ass" INPUT x$
701 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 710 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 790 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 870 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 990 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 701

710 REM bum a virginia slim from warpus PRINT PRINT " Ok I've gotta be honest. The world is still going to end in an apocalypse and you are still going to die, but dude HOLY SHIT when you bum that virginia slim from warpus you become the 3rd coolest dad in calgary, a city of 150,000" PRINT "dads. My friend, you can die happy. I mean what an accomplishment. 3rd Coolest dad in calgary. FUCK YEAH." ENZ$ = "Happy Ending #8" GOTO 13800

790 REM steal warpus' chicken PRINT PRINT " Oh holy shit. oh jesus mother of christ. I don't know how to explain this, but stealing Warpus' chicken fixed the balance of the multiverse and now the apocalypse has been averted. Of course no one will ever know. Except the chicken." PRINT "Warpus sure is gonn miss that little guy. Thats the bummer but i mean hey, gotta break some eggs to make an artpack." ENZ$ = "Happy Ending #7" GOTO 13800

870 REM enjoy the show w/ warpus PRINT _ " Man the hot nasties are the most kickin band in 1983 calgary. you and warpus are having a great time at the show just fuckin talkin shit and shoving strangers when the apocalypse comes and destroys everything but TBH you didn't see it coming." ENZ$ = "Ambiguous ending #7" GOTO 13800

990 REM hit on some hot sdd PRINT PRINT "As you get realize the hot ass is a buncha werewolves!" GOTO 315

1000 REM cool dad divorced PRINT " Fuck yeah, you're divorced! No spouse! no kids! No problems. It's 11am on sunday what are we doing?" PRINT " (a) Watch some Sports!" PRINT " (b) learn javascript online " PRINT " (c) Invite sexy ass Raquel over" PRINT " (d) I'm kinda hungry lets cook maybe." INPUT x$
1001 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 1002 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 1250 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 1500 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 1750 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 1001


1250 REM Learn Javascript online PRINT " You are coding javascript when the entire world explodes. Nice job idiot. I can't believe you picked learn javascript online." ENZ$ = "Unnecessarily Hostile ending #3" GOTO 13800

1500 REM invite sexy ass raquel over PRINT " That fine honey Raquel says she doesn't want to leave her house. What do you do?" PRINT " (a) give up and make bangers + mash" PRINT " (b) go over to her place?"

1501 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 1750 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 400 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 1501

1750 REM Im kinda hungry lets cook maybe PRINT " You are cooking (Bangers + mash) when the apocalypse hits. You run to the basement pass out and wake up one of the only survivors. Your story continues in POST-APOCALYPTIC BLENDER CYOA by Mel_Farr" ENZ$ = "Ambiguous ending #5" GOTO 13800

2000 REM 6th dimension (Magic the gathering)x PRINT " You have entered the Realm of The Gods!!! Unfortunately the realm of the gods is a browser with a wikipedia type set-up with an entry for everything in the multiverse and whenever you want to change anything you have to run around" PRINT "and edit the entry and hope that the other gods either agree with you or ignore it. fortunately many of the gods infight amongst themselves over small details like whether this one bro should have wavy or curly hair and whether magic " PRINT "the gathering should have a 6th color or not. So in some sense you're omnipotent but in other sense not so much. It's kind of a stressful frustrating existence but not without its own rewards." ENZ$ = "Ambiguous ending #2" GOTO 13800

2100 REM 7th Dimension (Mario Brothers) PRINT " As you travel through the portal to the 7th dimension it slowly twists and constricts and condenses until it looks like you're travelling through a simple green pipe when you emerge out of the pipe you find yourself emerging out"; PRINT "of the front door of a castle. You try to reenter the castle but cannot. The landscape outside is sparse. The sky is sky blue with a few pleasant clouds. There are strange white trees and standalone brown fences fencing off nothing."; PRINT "you look @ Radman, and notice thath is outfit has changed. He's wearing green overalls and a white shirt with a green hat. He's skinnier and has a goofy mustache. He's looking at you strangely. You're looking at him. Just then a bullet"; PRINT "whizzes by. You see the cannon in the distance and coming near you is some sort of flying turtle pterosaur. It seems dumb so you are easily able to duck out of its way. Radman looks at you and goes `Bro. I think we're in the mushroom" PRINT "kingdom... we're the MAREIO brothers. Do you:" PRINT " (a) correct him, it's prounced `mario' not mareio." PRINT " (b) decide not to correct him." INPUT x$
2102 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 2104 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 2103 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 2102

2103 REM Mario Death PRINT " You decide not to correct RadMan. As Mario and Luigi you vow to return the Princess from the clutches of King Koopa which you succeed at because a) you're already at world 7-1 and b) you have multiple lives and such. However after the" PRINT "party from rescuing the princess you fall asleep and dream through Mario #2 and you realized you are doomed to go on every single one of Mario's adventures. Terrified you commit suicide by jumping into a pit only to respawn every time a" PRINT "player boots up the game. You are cursed to be mario over and over again until infinity." ENZ$ = "Unhappy Ending #8" GOTO 13800

2104 REM Super Mario (fight koopa, ally with koopa, eat mushrooms) PRINT " Radman/Luigi relents, realizing that you are right, it's pronounced Mario. And you guys are in the mushroom kingdom. You weight your options:" PRINT " (a) Accept your destiny as Mario and fight king Koopa" PRINT " (b) Ally with Koopa...why not?" PRINT " (c) Maybe just hang out and eat mushrooms like...forever." INPUT x$
2105 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 2103 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 2110 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 2120 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 2105

2110 PRINT " With the combined forces of Cool Dad Mario, Radman Luigi and King Koopa, the Mushroom Kingdom is yours. And soon...Koopa grows bored. He grows increasingly curious about earth constantly asking you about it. And finally one day he leaves." PRINT "On his desk is a simple note. `Mario brothers: the last few years have been very special to me, but I know my true destiny is not to be an evil villain. It's to be a country singer. I'm moving to Nashville, changing my name to Hennifer and"; _ PRINT "becoming this generations Shania twain. Don't try to stop me. You and Radman share a knowing laugh as we cut to the credits." ENZ$ = "Happy ending #6" GOTO 13800

2120 PRINT " yeah i mean you're in the mushroom kingdom with an unlimited supply of mushrooms why the fuck fight king koopa...i mean, he's not exactly gunning for you guys. Eventually you and Radman get married in a private ceremony and have" PRINT "47 beautiful goomba children. Now you're an even cooler dad." ENZ$ = "Happy Ending #7" GOTO 13800

2200 REM 8th dimension (Buckaroo Banzai) PRINT " You find yourself in the 8th dimension, which has been taken over by the Red Lectroids, whose goal is to utilize the resources of earth in their eternal war against the black lectroids for control of planet 10. What will you do?" PRINT " (a) Assist the Red lectroids in retaking planet 10" PRINT " (b) Attempt to sabotage the red lectroids!" PRINT " (c) Utilize the red lectroid technology to return to earth" PRINT " (d) Hang out in the 8th dimension just kind of doing your own thing." INPUT x$
2201 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 2300 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 2400 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 2500 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 2600 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 2201

2300 REM Assist the red lectroids PRINT " Upon arriving in the 8th dimension you realize the population is like: fuckton of red lectroids, one you. So you decide you're going to have to help them, even though they are evil. Ultimately they send you to deal w/" PRINT "buckaroo banzai. What do you do?" PRINT " (a) Beg for a different assignment" PRINT " (b) Challenge Banzai to 1 on 1 combat" PRINT " (c) Surrender to and seek sanctuary with Buckaroo Banzai" PRINT " (d) Calmly explain to buckaroo banzai that the red lectroids plan to use a moderate amount of earth technology to wage a war that otherwise doesn't concern earth and they're not really such a grave threat so maybe just drop it." INPUT x$
2301 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 2302 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 2327 IF x$ = "c" OR x$ = "C" GOTO 2351 IF x$ = "d" OR x$ = "D" GOTO 2376 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 2301

2302 REM Beg for a different assignment PRINT " The red lectroids set you up as the secretary at yoyodyne propulsion systems where you do a phenomenal job. Due to your diligent work their plan goes off without a hitch before buckaroo banzai can interfere. The lectroids retake" PRINT " planet 10 which ultimately prevents the apocalypse. You end up with a nice little diner in Grover's mill new jersey. It's not cool but it's very fulfilling." ENZ$ = "Happy Ending #5" GOTO 13800

2327 REM Challenge Banzai to 1 on 1 combat PRINT " You challenge buckaroo Banzai to 1 on 1 combat. He looks at you and says, `I don't think thats going to work out very well for you, you sure about this?'" PRINT " (a) DIE HERO SCUM!!!" PRINT " (b) shit you're right, ok my bad." INPUT x$
2328 IF x$ = "a" OR x$ = "A" GOTO 2329 IF x$ = "b" OR x$ = "B" GOTO 2351 INPUT "please input an A,B,C...i don't have time to program clever AI"; x$ GOTO 2328

2329 PRINT " You draw out your weapon (it's a fucking garrote because you think garrotes are cool) and someone in the crowd points out that garottes are for sneak attacking so you already fucked up. Buckaroo Banzai knocks you out with the hilt of" PRINT " his samurai sword. You wake up in federal prison where you die when the apocalypse comes two years later while you're in the commissary cooking." ENZ$ = "Unhappy ending #7" GOTO 13800

2351 REM surrender and seek sanctuary w/ buckaroo banzai PRINT " You encounter Buckaroo Banzai in all of his glory. He is magnificent. You explain that you're just one guy trying to take care of yourself he grabs you. `Hey -- he says. You don't have to be sad. Because whatever you do, you did it." PRINT " `I'm not sad.' you say" PRINT " `Even better' Buckaroo Banzai says `You want a ride to the bus station?'." PRINT " Perfect Tommy and New Jersey give you a ride to the bus stop. You go home to your family and discover that you're already there because you're currently two years in the past. You and your past self work together to prevent the " PRINT " apocalypse and you totally become best buddies with yourself because you're both Cool Dads. You even take turns banging your spouse! Nice!!!" ENZ$ = "Happy Ending #4" GOTO 13800

2376 REM Calmly Explain PRINT " You encounter Buckaroo Banzai in all of his glory. You were going to try to be `cool' about it but it's not happening. He looks at you straight through the soul and you realize you're a fraud. you're not a cool dad. you'll never be cool" PRINT "enough to be a hong kong cavalier. still, he hears you outs. you explain that the red lectroids just want to use earth technology to take their home planet back and letting them do that will result in all of them leaving earth so maybe" PRINT "just leave them alone instead of trying to uncover the grand conspiracy. He looks, nods thoughtfully and says `well. Wherever they go, there they are.' He sees the wisdom in what you are saying and offers you a ride to the bus stop. By" PRINT "ending Buckaroo Banzai's battle against the lectroids, the red lectroids retake planet 10, fixing the balance of the universe and preventing the apocalypse. On the downside, you realize you're not really cool, which you will carry with" PRINT "you for the rest of your (now long) life." ENZ$ = "Ambiguous ending #4" GOTO 13800

2400 REM fight the red lectroids PRINT " Jesus christ you are a moron. You entered the 8th dimension. Population: a fuckton of red lectroids and you. And you decided to wage a one-man crusade against the red lectroids. are you a fucking moron? You seem like it. You are" PRINT "tortured seemingly endlessly until you die sad and alone." ENZ$ = "Unnecessarily hostile #2" GOTO 13800

2500 REM return to earth PRINT " Utilizing Red Lectroid technology you transport yourself to 1983 Grover's Mill New Jersey. You have a couple awesome years before being destroyed by the apocalypse (which strikes in 1985) so this is kind of an ambiguou ending" PRINT "because I really want to emphasize that your couple years in New Jersey are just great, but then you die in the apocalypse anyhow." ENZ$ = "Ambiguous ending #3" GOTO 13800

2600 REM hang out in the 8th dimension just kind of doing your own thing. PRINT " You decide to make a home for yourself in the 8th dimension. The Red lectroids, evil as they are are mostly focused on their own revenge plans and ignore you as long as you don't interfere. To be honest it sounds pretty boring to me," PRINT "but im just the narrator, I'm not a cool dad so I'm going to go ahead and say you probably enjoy yourself just fine. Congrats!" ENZ$ = "Happy Ending #3" GOTO 13800 END

13800 PRINT PRINT "THE "; ENZ$; " END" PRINT "" PRINT "and yes im aware that the _ ending end is redundant." REM Happy end 5, Unhappy 8, Ambig #4, Unnec Hostile #2

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Baud Dudes CYOA

Here you go, folks, first post of the year! -- a new hyperfiction conversion for your playing-through convenience, hot off the presses... it appeared in yesterday's Blocktronics artpack, a coterie of technological throwbacks who extol the virtues of ANSI art (circa MS-DOS BBSes) and demonstrate their virtuosity with this long-dead medium. Some of its members more than others conflate the context with the text, and use their works to nostalgically celebrate the nerd culture of the late '80s-early '90s, none more so than Reset Survivor, an artist with a burgeoning side practice largely unrelated to textmode artwork. In a deft piece of wordplay, the artpack is subtitled "BAUD DUDES", and included therein r5 penned a peculiar work of what amounts to hyperfiction fanfic of Data East's 1988 arcade game Bad Dudes vs. Dragonninja. (Surreal Data East mascot fire-breathing Russian strongman Karnov, first boss of Bad Dudes, is still here, but refigured in reverse as VONRAK, the champion of the SPACE NINJAZ. Six of one, half dozen of the other...)

If I had more time on my hands I would have transcribed it in its entirety (by saving the ANSI to ASCII, most of that work will be already done for me), but that will have to wait for the future benefit of hypothetical visually impaired readers. (You're not exactly missing Shakespeare here.) In a curious nod to the '80s milieu, the hypertext references are phrased a la BASIC instructions, enjoying GOTO statements akin to the ones we last saw back in 2010's posting of the 1982 program You Are A Detective.

Admittedly it has been a while -- my most recent hyperfiction conversion here was in October of 2013, some 2.5 years ago. What can I say, I've been busy with other projects. (Did I mention that I have two small children now? Someday they will enjoy their father's CYOA collection.) In short, all of the low-hanging fruit had been already picked by me. The Active Fiction Project remains a going concern -- indeed, they are seeking submissions again from (local) hyperfiction authors -- but in deference to their requests I have refrained from publicly recapitulating their complete narratives. I am backed up on reviewing two or three of them, but since you won't have a chance to try them for yourselves, they've been low priority.

This one, on the other hand, you do have a chance to try for yourself... so here goes!

Are you a BAUD enough DUDE to rescue DONNIE?
Looking around your enclosure, you notice something you might want to bring with you.
  • If you choose to bring your zippo lighter, GOTO BC
  • If you choose to bring a ham sandwich, GOTO BD

* * *

Do you decide to help your country, and DONNIE?
A slow rumble starts to build beneath your feet. A set of two glowing circles appear before you. One white and one red. You remember that you're supposed to stand on one of them but .. man, it's been so long that you've forgotten which one is for the radiation blow back. Hmmmm ...
  • If you choose the white circle, GOTO CC
  • If you choose the red circle, GOTO CD
  • If you decide to call out for help, GOTO CE
Do you enter?
A slow rumble starts to build beneath your feet. A set of two glowing circles appear before you. One white and one red. You remember that you're supposed to stand on one of them but .. man, it's been so long that you've forgotten which one is for the radiation blow back. Hmmmm ...
  • If you choose the white circle, GOTO CC
  • If you choose the red circle, GOTO CD
  • If you decide to call out for help, GOTO CE

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

Which route do you choose?
  • If you decide to take the elevator, GOTO DA
  • If you decide to take the hatch, GOTO DB

* * *

Out from the shadows, steps KING SPACE NINJA himself, VONRAK.
  • If you choose to run, GOTO EA
  • If you choose to stand and fight, GOTO EB

* * *

* * *

* * *

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Warlock fatigue

Tin Man Games, who started out doing solid work on their original IP series of Gamebook Adventures, have since branched out in the service of larger and more lucrative licenses -- from Ryan North's To Be, Or Not To Be, to the somewhat niche nostalgic gamebook series Grail Quest and Demonspawn, to the original UK gamebook phenomenon, Fighting Fantasy. FF is a license that refuses to die, so hats off to it! Every few years another contender decides that it has potential for a computer (or now, mobile) adaptation, then peters out after adapting a book or two when they decide that it just didn't deliver the calibre of revenue they'd hoped for -- often it is the first few books in the series that are visited, and revisited. Following Adventuresoft UK's text adventure conversion of Temple of Terror in 1987 -- as the steam was running out of the gamebooks' first wave -- there wasn't another FF adaptation made until Eidos' 1998 action version of Deathtrap Dungeon, and no not-previously-converted books (not for lack of options -- the series runs over 60 titles) were subject to adaptations until Bright AI's (since-redacted) conversion of The Shamutanti Hills for iOS in 2010. In the meantime, we get to see, again and again: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the series' first entry, raw, unmoderated by experience or developments in game design sensibilities since 1982. Tin Man Games are currently hyping stretch goals for their kickstarted version of Firetop Mountain.
I maintain a game group at Mobygames of Fighting Fantasy gamebook adaptations, but I maintain a separate group for Warlock of Firetop Mountain adaptations -- that is how many of them there are. The license is not always well-applied: the first, 1984, computer game by that name is simply a re-skinning of the Gauntlet-alike Hall of the Things for the ZX Spectrum; around the turn of the century there is an internet-unknown (despite being award-winning) WEP mobile phone adaptation, and not long after Proporta in 2004 publishes a version for the Palm organizer.

In 2006 there's a breath of fresh air, a roguelike, "Warlock's Mountain", loosely inspired (read: unlicensed) by the scenario; in 2009 Aspyr makes an Elder Scrolls-ish first-person action game based on it for the Nintendo DS, and in 2010 Big Blue Bubble launches a brief line of FF adaptations for iOS with their version of Firetop Mountain. One measly year later, in 2011, Laughing Jackal try for a more faithful enhanced-gamebook presentation dual-launching on the PSP and PS3, and there is a Kindle version in 2012 that looks eerily similar to the Palm version of 12 years prior.

And now, in 2015, Tin Man takes its crack at the throne, having successfully adapted eight other FF titles (making it the undisputed Fighting Fantasy electronic adaptation champion of all time -- Big Blue Bubble made it through 5 before their license expired) before deciding to return to this well-trod territory (rather than looking at some of the fifty-odd titles that no one has yet ever given the conversion treatment.) Can they blow some fresh air into the title? It's not impossible -- Inkle has done marvels with its treatment of Steve Jackson's Sorcery! gamebooks, expanding on them nigh-exponentially. Previews suggest that this is the direction Tin Man may be going for this adaptation -- at least, if they're able to raise the dosh to do so.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Active Fiction Project the third: As Above, So Below

Active Fiction is back! It remains in effect only in Vancouver for the time being, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, returns to the Riley Park neighbourhood for a hat trick slam dunk. I tried to collect, capture and document the first installment when it launched, then did a little promo on the second when it emerged... impatient, I even profiled what little I could glean about the organization without their answering any of my interview questions in SPAG, the Society for the Promotion of Adventure Games newsletter (come to think about it, it's been 188 days and I still haven't had any questions answered...)

(To bring you up to speed, Active Fiction installs text passages in public locations -- typically attached to lamp posts with zap straps -- each advancing a paragraph or so of story and directing readers to the location(s) of further passages nearby in the area that they may choose to visit in order to continue the narrative. The stories tend to run to ~20 passages overall, and their layout does not necessarily follow an optimal path. Because I don't live in the area, I visit in my car and quickly "lawnmower" all of the story passages using my camera, so I can leisurely read my way through the story threads after my little ones are tucked in. This has the side effect of privately preserving the stories for posterity, as they are only posted in public for a limited time! I was initially gung ho about mirroring the stories here for the ages, but the Active Fiction folks have kindly asked me to refrain from such activity, so now I just give you teasers and invite you out into the streets to experience them for yourselves.)

This time around we revisit some familiar territory but with a more magical realist approach. The very day I got wind that the laminated cards were up on the street, I cleared a block of time that afternoon and started plotting out a grid of story nodes, so as to facilitate and expedite my complete collection of the story fragments -- I wanted to be the first to report on it! Sadly, though all of my ducks were in a row, I've been somewhat blogly backlogged, so now everyone will think that I'm just poaching the story from the 24hrs free daily newspaper. Alas!

This one began at the same location as the previous story, just east of Main Street at 28th Avenue. It's given the ominously astrological title As Above, So Below, and is written by one Brittany Huddart about whom I was unable to dig up any juicy info online. Let's get a little bit closer...
#1) The sky over the mountains eases from blues to oranges in the hour before twilight. You're worn out from your long day at work waiting for, (another,) late bus. It's too hot this summer and the muggy atmosphere has sweat slicking your body in all the wrong places. You grip your shirt and flap it against your body to create a breeze. It doesn't work. Where is that bus? You ease your tote bag off your shoulder and set it on the sidewalk. Your muscles ache. You're grateful for the presence of transit in the city, but waiting for late busses or watching full busses whizz past at rush hour is painfully frustrating. You crouch by the road. You rub sweat off your forehead with the back of your wrist. The late afternoon sun bakes your feet through your sneakers. Do you:
  • Keep waiting for the bus? Go to #2) -> Find the streetlamp on John St, just south of 28th Ave
  • OR

  • Give up on the stupid bus and start walking! Go to #3) -> Head down Watson St to corner of 26th Ave.
Wait a sec, that's not an Active Fiction story node... it's instructions on keeping a city-planted tree watered! You develop a hypersensitized sixth sense hunting for the story cards flapping on the boulevards, knowing only that a target card will be situated somewhere on a given block without knowing its nearest address or even which side of the street it'll be located on. More than once, with my Spider senses fully engaged, I caught story cards "in the wild", finding them while passing through before my story explorations had directed me to their particular location. (My collecting really cares nothing for sequence; after grabbing my photo, I'll scan my list of known locations and make a bee-line to the nearest one. I can read them later! How decidedly postmodern.)
Here I am, apparently having plotted a course for story node number three! But you will require Blade Runner skills to enhance and rotate the card enough to read its contents.
Outraged I am outraged at a story node that offers no branching, only redirection to a subsequent node. (Nice shirt, though!) But this does reveal some key players in this little story, the TRASH KINGS cadre of outlaw raccoons whose sinister plots (I love the revelation in node 14!) impact everyone living in the area.
The story optionally leads readers to the cemetery again (the protagonist goes in; the active readers enjoy the account from a respectful distance). This isn't a story node (more's the pity -- what a story you could make of it!), I just appreciated the humour on the graveyard signage.


I completed my collection, checking off my final missing node, number 11, after enjoying its spectacular approach. Here you can see the messy process by which a neurotic approaches this completionistic exercise with rigor, a complete log of story node numbers, locations, and accounts of which nodes they lead to. This page contains everything needed to make a story map without anything actually in the story. Sorry, the story is lovely and this is all just sausage-making, but I felt it was curious enough to share.

And that's a wrap for Active Fiction story #3, with hopefully many more to come following their call for submissions a few months ago. The time seems to be ripe for people to leave their houses and bodily engage with hyperfiction: Brett Joliffe has been running a series of "Choose Your Own Adventure" nights at the Astoria Pub, spicing up a monthly night at the bar with games, stories and a nostalgic theme. As having kids has made me instantly decrepit, I haven't made it out to one of them yet, but I'm looking forward to conducting some reconnaissance and reporting back to you, my long-ignored hypothetical readers. That's all for now, so be well and choose on!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

but what have I turned to recently?

So, it's been a while, faithful old gamebook / hyperfiction blog. Did I convert all the branching narratives?
Looking forward to crossing that one off my list, but we're not there yet.

Not quite. Have I reported on all the new works? Not even close. Life got complicated, free time took a hit and I had to withdraw to a core two primary blogs, leaving my extended projects, including this one, somewhat dangling in the breeze. But I'd noticed that the traffic here had remained constant and continual at a low level (albeit one exceeding that of my more active projects), so I might be well-advised to toss it a bone. (I know that the majority of the traffic is one person stumbling across the blog weekly, then lawn-mowing one game down to the ground with a thousand clicks, but humour me. Unlike my other most popular blogging project, at least I know here my traffic isn't misreported Google Image Search plunderers availing themselves of my goodies without ever appreciating my exhaustive commentary!)

I kept finding excellent candidates for the time- and labour-intensive process of hypertext HTML conversion, and when I followed due diligence and successfully made contact with the creators for permission and blessing, they kept opting out. Really? You want your text to maintain its mute integrity inside its PDF fortress? (I suppose that is the selling point of the PDF format.) You want your story to live out its lifespan on laminated sheets of letter paper for three weeks, then disappear forever? Turns out -- that is what they wanted. Go figure. (One renowned author, upon seeing what I had done with a colleague's work, pre-emptively forbade me explicitly from giving the same treatment to his works.) Then the last straw was finding old works I'd been intermittently converting in spare moments over the weeks, months and years being picked back up by their authors and converted just like I'm doing, only better-done and with the official authorial imprimatur. Good on them for doing my work for me! But it takes the wind out of my sails and leave me twiddling my thumbs a bit, to be fair. All well, I have many other matters to attend to anyhow!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these matters include playing games. A curious consequence of the way my time is spent now that I've achieved full-time employment is that nearly all of my discretionary computing time is on mobile devices rather than keyboard-equipped machines. Consequently (because pounding out phone books with your thumbs and autocorrect is madness), blogging and creative projects diminish dramatically. But on the plus side, I've had an opportunity to acquaint myself with some of the new titans of what I consider to be my field. In short, since it washed up in a recent Humble Mobile Sale, I've had a great time whiling away quite a number of minutes trying to laboriously crack the remote nuts of obscured bonus content from Inkle's award-winning 80 Days, a steampunk take on the Jules Verne classic.

The first thing I had to do upon resolving my first, unsuccessful attempt to circumnavigate the globe in the allotted time limit (confounded Hong Kong opium den!) was to fire it up again and try a different route. Within a week I had logged a couple of dozen replays -- no small beans feat given the substantial end-to-end time it takes to achieve a playthrough -- exploring alternate avenues and subplots like the Polar expedition and the mid-Atlantic murder mystery. It had never even occurred to me that the Gastown that would periodically come up within game conversations was my own local historical boomtown (maybe we can get Barkerville in some future expanseion?) and I will not be satisfied until I can figure out how to log an appearance there along my intercontinental voyages and ask Gassy Jack about his historical steam clock. This is an amazing triumph for Jon Ingold of Inkle Studios, a longtime interactive fiction creator who'd long suspected there was untapped potential in choice-based narratives in his earlier public CYOA engines Adventure Book and (far more recently) Inklewriter, as well as his own games The Intercept (a bit of Turing-inspired suspense) and A Colder Light (a rhapsody on colonization and progress), plus groundbreaking work adapting and vastly expanding Steve Jackson's Sorcery! gamebooks (part 3, one of my very first childhood gamebook experiences, recently released!)

(But in throwing Jon's complete cv at you, don't let me completely obfuscate the essential contributions of 80 Days' main writer, Meg Jayanth! The game's elegant and seamless structure was a beautiful vessel, and she tirelessly filled it with amazing content.)

The problem with these deep games which will only give up 10% of their content in a given playthrough is that if you're enjoying them, you have to keep playing over and over again to tease out more of the hidden goodies! At least with a canvas the size of the globe, there are many entirely discrete avenues; I've also been catching up on some recent offerings from Choice of Games, which are more about running different kinds of characters through the same series of plot beats and appreciating the different shades everything is coloured with. Up to a point, I slavishly covered every permutation of every Choice of Games title; then, two opposite things happened: my free time plummeted dramatically, and their rate of game release skyrocketed. This means that I'm quite behind -- and yet, these things can't just be ploughed through as they must be visited and revisited to coax out the tweaks and twists! But eventually a jaded game critic can blitz through a well-thumbed COG title on autopilot, sensitive only to extraordinary differences standing out.

It's just been too long for me to report on the unique (well, shades of the MIB film franchise) Yeti Parole Officer and Neighbourhood Necromancer before it to give a fair report on them, but it's a moot point as they've been wildly overshadowed by more recent successes. Choice of Robots has emerged as a bona fide Steam hit, with people posting drawings from their playthroughs on Tumblr, and I haven't had opportunity to play it enough times to have much insight to add about it (fatal error on my part -- buying a desktop copy rather than a mobile one... though wouldn't it be nice if games could be buy-once, play-anywhere?) -- but fortunately, it needs none, its happy accident success clearing the way for further Choice of Games appearances in the Steam store.

I came in to The Hero of Kendrickstone prepared to dislike it: an apparently generic high fantasy setting, a ridiculous placename, and by a local author whose previous workmanlike titles, Sabres of Infinity and Mecha Ace, belied a consummate command over a genre -- cinematic militarism -- that wasn't really to my taste. Even after the first couple of playthroughs I wasn't sure what to think of it until I was struck over the head by the realization that here was a spiritual successor to my beloved Quest For Glory series, the stand-out from Sierra's punishing line of Quest adventure games. As in those, here is a scenario concerning a developing hero, free to pursue class specialization but never confined to class-appropriate approaches for solving puzzles. Naturally there is less arcade action and a lower emphasis on inventory puzzles, plus the pun ratio is way down, but the inheritance of the QFG legacy regardless seems clear, in retrospect, and that's a good thing.

Choice of the Petal Throne, conversely, is like nothing else out there, based on M.A.R. Barker's Tékumel -- a disorienting blend of Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica and South Asia. This title went through three shades of vaporware development hell, placing 3rd in 2011's IntroComp and then... falling off the map for four years. Though the campaign setting is contemporary to Tolkien's Middle-Earth, its world is considerably fresher, doubtless due to its not having been run into the ground for some 75 years. Sometimes the variety spice can feel a bit overliberally-applied, baffling readers with the "Call a rabbit a smeerp" factor -- once in a while you hit a page that just doesn't make any sense, but you keep a stiff upper lip and plough on through and eventually things make sense again. The main problem here is similar to other COG games and the first superhero movie of every trilogy: so much time and effort is invested into the early-game character-development (COG actually weighs the impacts of choices differently depending on where in the story they occur!) that by the time you're up to speed, playing the "you" that you've built and defined, it can feel that there's not a heck of a lot of story remaining in the game -- a couple of teaser episodes, then it's ta ta. (Now imagine if all the COG games, instead of unanimously suffering this problem, all built on each other with one epic mega serialized story? Admittedly it's impossible for many reasons, their only fully-successful serial work being the Choice of Romance trilogy -- half points for story extensions in Zombie Exodus -- but more to the point, these games are all explorations into different genres. If I think Tékumel is confusing, that's nothing compared to my SF adventure turning into a murder mystery, which leads into a Western and a samurai tale. If genre-hopping is baked into the premise, then it can be fun, but it's not, so this is a fruitless line of pontification. Next, then!)

Their most recent title (and let's see if I can get this post published while that's still the case!) is Hollywood Visionary, a refreshing departure from Aaron Reed of Blue Lacuna fame (and more recently of such weighty pieces as Ice-Bound (in progress) and maybe make some change aka "maybe i'm the bad guy".) Here he gets to take a break and have some fun, interposing a gentle Game Dev Story style film studio simulation with playful Pleasantville '50s tropes, all against a backdrop of a McCarthyist witch hunt. Plus Reed throws in an unforgettable zany Orson Welles cameo that taps into his madcap Gourmet mode that you thought you'd never see again! The game is quite linear -- all players proceed through the same nodes at the same pace, with the in-game player-responsiveness limited to (admittedly extensive) set dressing and Morton's Forks which hint at further, unexplored possibilities beyond the scope of this game. All the same, as Daft Punk would say: it's good fun.

Though COG's mouthpiece is hooked up directly to my ear, as noted I've been missing out on all kinds of amazing games they've been putting out -- Psy High and Thieves' Gambit for instance -- which I may need to give big, juicy belated reviews to. And what's more, there have been a bevy of their hosted games that flew right under my radar despite being exactly the sort of thing I'm always keeping my eyes open for: a Lovecraft horror game by the author of Tin Star? (You know: Tin Star, the best Western genre game ever made, currently undergoing a Steam Greenlight campaign?) They made a game about the Spanish Civil War and I didn't find out about it until how long? That was a shock like first hearing about Ready Player One, a book which was custom-written for me with a laser-like precision, by finding it in my mailbox one morning years after its publication date. Basically: Choice of Games has gotten so big (well over a year ago I initiated interview proceedings with them by making the observation that they had at that point published more adventure games than Infocom ever did!) that the titans in the catalogue are overshadowing the very existence of a mass quantity of perfectly serviceable games (plus Tin Star, in my estimation the greatest work yet written in ChoiceScript) thriving in the undergrowth beneath its canopy. It's, uh, a rich ecosystem.

Then there's the elephant in the room: Tin Man Games held a Humble Sale, and though I had some time ago bought their Gamebook Adventures titles on sale in the Apple Store, our iOS devices conked out not long after and I suffered the sting of having bought still-maintained games and being unable to play or review them. Their segue into inheritors of the Fighting Fantasy legacy seemed almost inevitable, also ingratiating them to me in their commitment to converting more gamebook titles beyond the same three or four which had been covered over and over again. (I have a soft spot for FF gamebooks; looking back at them, the soft spot must be located in my skull, since the games are brutal and their difficulty is largely derived from factors which are external to fun gameplay. But we don't get to choose our nostalgia, we just look back fondly on whatever we're dealt.)

Fighting Fantasy is not the only license they've picked up; there are other classic franchises under their roof but the elephant in question is not The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain, but rather Hamlet... which is to say, its choose-your-own-adventure adaptation by Ryan "Dinosaur Comics" North, the man who Kickstarted a half-million dollars to turn Shakespeare's play into a gamebook entitled To Be, Or Not To Be.

It's an odd duck. There is good work here -- clever, postmodern (surely everything pomo is good, right?) and even occasionally important, as in the investigation of the awesome, modern life Ophelia might have enjoyed if she had not allowed herself to get sucked into Hamlet's consistently making the worst choice possible. But to get there, you have to penetrate a dense layer of self-indulgence (just how critical is a Hamlet version of Will Smith's theme to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air?) and accessibility. I know, that last bit will sound contradictory, but let me unpack a bit: the game desperately wants to be your friend, but at the same point, like an adult trying to be hip and jive teenagers in their own savvy lingo, the effect is kind of repellent. For an unsophisticated hyperfiction -- following the Choose Your Own Adventure model rather than a gamebook system of state tracking -- it does well, even providing skully signposting allowing readers to play along with the version of the plot Shakespeare foolishly (if dramatically) opted to present. Every ending has an illustration, but anyone serious about lawnmowing the game (which rewards the patient with substantial isolated story sections) will avoid filling their illustration gallery because achieving the pictures interferes with the game's rewind function, checkpoints being located so far back as to be unuseful. In conclusion: it's epic and awesome, but perhaps better served in 10-minute read/play sessions over a week than over hours of frenzied reading and re-reading over a couple of feverish evenings. There's a reason Dinosaur Comics is so much more appealing in a 6-panel format rather than a 600-panel one.

And of course, I just had another article published in the latest issue of SPAG, hot off the presses! I cover the most "recent" regular topic here in this blog, The Active Fiction Project -- choose your own adventure printed on laminated cards on city sidewalks, for those just now tuning in.

And there you have it. Why write one review a month when I can store them up and write 12 reviews, once a year? I figure that this site is probably better served maintaining its earlier character and remaining primarily as a preserve for the games hosted here; I have plenty of reviews I could write (I maintain an off-site collection of literally hundreds of children's gamebooks and solitaire adventures) but if I do go down that route (hopefully, because really, what else am I going to do with them all?) I probably will lift up stakes and resettle at the site name we came up with when the CRPG Addict was discussing New World Computing's CRPG adaptation of Flying Buffalo's Tunnels & Trolls tabletop RPG (expansively packed with content from its numerous solitaire adventures): The CYOA Addict.

But even that is probably off the table until my kids are old enough to read the books with me and weigh in, so I'll see you there in a few years (don't worry, at this pace that will probably be measured out in four or five posts here 8)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Active Fiction returns, now, on the other side of Main Street!

Back in May I reported (with perhaps a regrettable degree of detail) the exciting activities of The Action Fiction Project -- an exciting venture loosely affiliated somehow with the Vancouver Public Space Network (an organization that has brought me into other good times not related to the subject of this blog). In short, they commission neighbourhood-themed works of simple CYOA-style hyperfiction, with story nodes staggered throughout a part of town, urging adventurers to walk around to this intersection or that, looking for laminated cards on which the next portion of the story is printed. It's a great idea -- basically a low-tech ARG -- and one which shows great growth potential if piggybacked on to GPS or podcast technology. But for the time being, we're going low-fi -- for a hyperfiction experiment going live during the death of longtime Choose Your Own Adventure publisher and proponent R.A. Montgomery, simple seems a fitting homage.

These story nodes have been up for a couple of weeks now, and as the installation is time-limited, I don't know for how much longer they're going to remain accessible by the public. I have of course documented them for my private purposes, but you may be running out of opportunities to play the game in the field, as it was intended -- so if this interests you in the slightest, run, don't walk, to the SE corner of Main & 28th Avenue in Vancouver, BC. (I know, the weather isn't cooperating much. I had good luck during my three photo sessions.) Curiously, both instalments of the series to date have revolved around the Main & 25th area (a structural note: both also 20 sections long), but perhaps future episodes will venture further afield: start from the centre and work your way out!

Well, here I am. Oh, isn't that artwork curious! And -- hey, I say, what's that sign in the ground?

In Search of Little Mountain
by Sarah Higgins

Oh man. You should've paid better attention to the directions your friend game, you know how you are with getting lost. But you caught the curiosity in her voice -- Don't you wanna find this little mountain that's such a big deal - whole neighbourhood's named after it. It's a good point. So here you are, tiny map on a Post-It in your pocket. She said start at the cemetery, but you got off the bus too early and here you are [on] a street corner instead. As you wonder where to go, a bus passes...


Read more? Go to #2 -> Corner of John St & 28th

This must be the place!

OK, well, here we go!

OK, this looks promising... oh, in fact, looking a little closer reveals the next story node actually attached to the street sign's pole! I hope this junction offers an actual choice and not a fake-out like that last segment... a pity it's a little too far away to read while installed on this cozy little bench!

Ahh, "the calm of the cemetery". Either way, it hangs over us.

Those really are funereal cypresses in the Mountainview cemetery. This bit of frivolity about exploring near graveyards actually is set up just outside the cemetery grounds. In respect -- not for the deceased, but for the author, now that we've finally arrived at a choice junction, I'm going to lay off on documenting the contents of the story nodes, instead providing a little photo essay summarizing my pursuit of the rest of the story threads.

Found it! But it's very hard to read from this position.

Nobody said that playing this game through to 100% completion would be easy! There are real geographical risks and hazards in effect here!

The final story thread leads me to this unassuming neighbourhood business for its conclusion (a "best ending"?) -- but wait, what's that in the window?

A game well played! Hats off, Active Fiction Project! Now that I've learned it wasn't just a one-off, here's looking forward to the next one!

Humorously, this is what my smartphone tells me while auditing my pile of photos from the hunt. Google, I don't need your help to turn these photos into beautiful, interactive stories -- that's already what they're about!