Modern Parser Graphic Adventures

If you are a fan of classic graphic adventures that use a parser, such as the King’s Quest and Space Quest series, then you’ll want to check out the modern parser adventure scene, where people are building new games that look and play like games from that era but updated to have a more robust parser and avoiding problems like softlocks.

My favorite of these is Snail Trek. It’s a fairly short episodic series where you play as a group of snails checking out a planet to see if it can be a new homeworld for them. I loved how flexible the parser was and how it would offer word suggestions. The player is also encouraged to check out player deaths because they’re humorous and will reload you back to before you made your mistake. The first episode of four is free.

Gif from Enclosure 3D of a man entering and exiting a shower

Most of the modern parser graphic adventures seem to be on Itch so I made a list of them. I recommend playing all of them. None of them are too long and they all have something unique to offer. The Aching is a new game for DOS that has a Dosbox wrapper so you don’t have to do any weird configuration to play it in Windows. The Crimson Diamond is a mystery inspired by the classic Sierra game The Colonel’s Bequest. It’s currently in development so the download on the Itch and Steam page is just a demo but you can watch dev streams for the game every Tuesday. The Tachyon Dreams trilogy and Spy Quest series are by developers of modern adventure games like Blood Nova. Enclosure 3D is a remake of an adventure game from 2004 but with a really snazzy 3D engine that I would love to see applied to more parser games.

There’s also games not on Itch like Betrayed Alliance and Fortune and Glory, a text parser rpg that is currently in development. I’m sure there’s plenty of games I’m missing but it’s exciting seeing so many developers revisiting ideas from games in the 80s and building upon them.

screenshot from The Aching of someone walking next to a giant mouth in a wall

Books About Adventure Games

There’s a ton of books about adventure games and interactive fiction. Here are some of the ones I recommend: Presents: The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures

This is a collection of adventure game reviews from the site Hardcore Gaming 101. While it’s more focused on classic adventure games from the 80s and 90s, I think it’s a valuable resource for discovering old games and seeing how some people feel about some of the classic adventure games that everyone knows. If you bought the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on from a few years ago, you already own a copy.

What Is Your Quest?: From Adventure Games to Interactive Books

This book by Anastasia Salter is an excellent history of the interactive fiction and adventure game genres. One thing that really impressed me was the coverage of the fan game community that popped up during the 00’s. This is an era that’s rarely discussed in discussions of the adventure game genre, so it was a delight to discover games I was unaware of.

Jane Jensen: Gabriel Knight, Adventure Games, Hidden Objects

This is another book by Anastasia Salter that I really enjoyed. This one is a history of Jane Jensen’s career. While most discussions of her career only cover her time making adventure for Sierra during the 90’s, this also goes into great details of her time making more casual games in the 00’s, her games from her Kickstarter, and her career now writing gay romance novels. Jane Jensen is my favorite designer at Sierra so I loved hearing about her career in casual games and why she moved on to writing novels.

The Sierra Adventure

The Sierra Adventure is an incredibly detailed history of the game developer Sierra. While the book is written by a huge fan of the company, it isn’t afraid to cover games that were poorly received and mistakes the company made.

FMV Friday for August 4, 2023

The power was out at my home for two days last week so I was unable to do one of these, so here’s the FMV stuff I’ve been into lately. It’s a short one since I’ve only played one game but I thought it was cool. I previously mentioned that the game engine Narrat now supports video for its scenes and character portraits and the first game to use it was submitted to the Narrat game jam that just ended. A walk through the forest is a game where you walk on a trail, identifying plants and reading thoughts from the developer. I thought it was a pleasant game to play and it inspired me to work on two different things so hopefully I can share one of those in the next few weeks, depending on how busy I am. It’s a really nice and short game that’s playable in the browser so go check it out.

screenshot from the game featuring a photo of a forest and some things in the forest being highlighted.

The Serious Sam/Duke Nukem Feud

I figured that during blaugust I could start dumping my memories of weird games forum drama as well so I could be free of this knowledge and have it preserved somewhere as well. Today I will talk about the great Serious Sam/Duke Nukem feud of the early 00s. In the early 00’s I was (and I still am) a huge fan of the Serious Sam series and even spent a ton of time on the forums for Seriously!, the biggest Serious Sam fan site in the world, where the dev team for the series would also often post. This is where I became aware of the feud, which I think was mostly playful but I’m not 100% sure, between the developers of Serious Sam and George Broussard, one of the creators of the Duke Nukem series and many other games before and after.

It all started in 2000, when Croteam was working on Serious Sam and just released a vertical slice to get a publisher interested in their game. It was getting a lot of positive praise because it was released at a time when the dominant FPS style at the time was the Rainbow Six style of game. That is, except for a comment by George

text from a post on a forum where george is critical of the game

To be clear, even though I disagree with it, this post is fine. It’s just a post on (I think?) the 3D Realms forums and I suspect that there was a thread about the demo and people were just discussing it. People are allowed to state their opinions online about video games. It still ended up coming to the attention of the Serious Sam devs, possibly during their interview with Old Man Murray, and rubbed them the wrong way, which is also understandable. Croteam ended up getting a publisher and releasing Serious Sam: The First Encounter, which was a big hit and Croteam started getting a following and developing a sequel. From what I recall, it ended up being discussed on the Seriously! forums in a thread and there were probably jokes about Duke Nukem Forever taking so long. I’m sure it’s been preserved on the Internet Archive but I’m not going to dig it up because I already found something tangential to it and it was a big oof.

As mentioned in the Old Man Murray interview, this is actually why Serious Sam: The First Encounter has a sewer level. It’s probably my least favorite level in the game but now you know why it exists.

Over the years, the Serious Sam series has made a bunch of references poking fun at the Duke Nukem franchise. The first actual reference to Duke Nukem appears in Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. There’s a secret phone booth you can access where Sam calls someone asking for a man named Blondie and saying he’s been waiting forever for him to show up. There’s also a very brief reference to Duke in Serious Sam for the X-Box, which is a combined release of the First and Second Encounters.

Things get a little weirder in Serious Sam 2. There’s a reference to Blondie again in a cutscene and you can find a skeleton of someone named Duke with another Duke Nukem Forever joke thrown in. There’s also a minor character named George B. Gnaar, who is named after George.

After this point Croteam moved on and it was basically forgotten. As far as I know, the only time anyone associated with Duke Nukem poked back was with the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour where there is a secret in one of the new levels. Similar to the secret with the Doom marine in the original Duke 3D, you can find Serious Sam’s corpse and Duke will say “Why so serious….Sam?” I think this new episode was developed by Gearbox or a team outside of 3D Realms, which had been closed at this time before the name and IPs were acquired by folks that had nothing to do with the original studio.

The final reference I’ve seen was in Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem, a standalone DLC released in 2022, which features a magazine referencing Blondie. I believe this was mostly by an external team but clearly fans of the game remember that original beef between the two studios.

Well, there you have it. There was a beef between two game studios that you now know about and I can dump this info from my brain.

Lost Sid Meier Documentary Recovered

Yesterday I was told that after a few years of searching, a documentary about Sid Meier has been reuploaded to YouTube.

Back in 2010, VICE traveled to the University of Michigan to document Sid Meier participating in Wolverine Soft’s annual 48-hour game jam. Sid Meier was an undergrad at the University of Michigan and returned because his son Ryan, occasionally referred to as “Kid Meier” at times by other officers with love, was president of Wolverine Soft at the time. Wolverine Soft is the game development club at the University of Michigan that was founded in 1999. They’re still around today and now even put their games on Steam.

The documentary itself is a fun look at the game jam and mostly focused on Sid Meier creating an unranked game for the jam and voting on the other games in the jam. There’s some parts about his career in game dev but it’s a minor part. It’s not too long either, only 23 minutes long, so I think it’s worth checking out. Apparently this documentary had been missing from Vice’s site for at least a few years and only got recovered when some students at U of M pestered someone who worked on it on Twitter, who found they still had the documentary saved on an old hard drive. So if there’s a lesson in all of this, politely ask someone for info if they were involved in an old games thing you like. You might get a pleasant surprise from it.

Decker and Color Support

I just saw a game implement color in an app made with Decker so I thought for my first post in Blaugust, the event where people try to make a blog post every day this month, I would quickly explain what Decker is and how to make apps with color.

What’s Decker?

Decker is a platform for creating multimedia apps in the style of Hypercard for the Macintosh during the 80s and 90s, but designed to be even more approachable and possible to use in a web browser as well. If you’ve never used a Decker app before, there was just a jam on Itch where you can check it out.

What’s This About Color Support?

For a while I’ve been wishing for it to support color because my first experience with Hypercard was playing Myst, which used a heavily modified version of Hypercard, and thinking that it could be a good game engine for making a very specific kind of adventure game. Well it turns out it has had the ability to do color this whole time. This post here explains what the process is. It’s a little more technical than just pushing a button but I’m happy to see it there. An entry in the Decker jam I mentioned even has a nature slideshow in color. It’s a lovely thing that reminds me of an early internet and hopefully we’ll see more apps in this style in the near future. Maybe I’ll even do one.