Lost Infocom game found (sorta)

EDIT 2: All sorted, the game is available with the consent of the author! Find it here

EDIT:

OK, so there may be some privacy concerns here. The game seems to have been an in-office thing never intended for publication. While I still think it would be interesting and valuable to share it, it may not have been cool to do so without the author’s permission. (I don’t blame Adam.) I think some outreach has been made to see if that can happen? Meanwhile, the links below no longer work.

— original message, unedited: —

Adam Sommerfield has unearthed an unreleased and apparently forgotten Infocom game, “Hypochondriac”. (After the first puzzle, the title changes to “Outcast” - it’s unclear what name it might have been marketed under.)

The sources, and a z3 binary compiled with ZILF, are here: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/mobile/folders/1lhJnZU68s9Cgj6STIiChPUMcT1u6SuVm

Adam has made a video about how he found it, here: https://youtu.be/WwIbRICyVJQ

I’ve played a little, and while there are some bits of clunky implementation - presumably it never went through QA - the gently wacky voice, depth of implementation, and arbitrary cruelty of Infocom are unmistakable.

>READ SIGN
“Three of these doors lead to certain doom. The other door slightens the probability of certain doom by a slim percentile. Proceed at your own risk.”

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Wow! This is pretty exciting. I heard him mentioning some other games as well, like Milliways, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s sequel game. Are those available as well?

Okay, I found a link on github to Milliways, anyway:

I can run it in Gargoyle if I change the cols preferences from 60 to 80.

Uploaded for online play here, before we’ll have it in The Archive.

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One of the cool things is seeing how the developers at Infocom sort of mellowed out over the years –

Hmm? Ah.

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From context, I think they’re talking about this 1999 action-adventure game: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outcast_(video_game)

Hm, interesting! One of them seems not-that, perhaps, but I’d actually never heard of this other game, and so assumed it was clearly the right one. But you’re right, the genre tags and release date line up well enough that it’s probably that game instead.

Does the response to HELP change in different rooms? If so, “can it” miiiiight be a clue that you need to look in the trash can (which you do).

EDIT: Nope, it’s just being rude.

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Some possible light on the authorship here:
https://www.filfre.net/2015/08/hollywood-daves-hijinx/

One year Infocom hired a high-school boy named Tom Bok to help with testing over the summer. He got hold of the ZIL source code to the original Zork and started playing around with it, first just by substituting text of his own but later by experimenting with the actual instructions. Both Hollywood [Dave Anderson] and his old buddy Jeff O’Neill got interested in his explorations, and the trio made a spoof they called Zok — a portmanteau of Zork and Bok — that was widely played by others in the office.

Could Hypochondriac/Outcast be Zok? The source was found in the directory USR/WOOD/ZOK; I haven’t played much yet, but after escaping the bedroom you do go through a shimmering wall into what seems like a somewhat over-the-top version of a Zorkian magical underground realm; there’s a reference to a person called “Hollywood”; and from what I’ve played so far, the whole thing does have a bit of a teenage-boy vibe - PC is a teenage boy, starts in My Messy Bedroom, eye-dialect-talking Swedish maid.

Anyone know what happened to Tom Bok?

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Haha, I don’t mind. I thought I’d never be insulted from an Infocom game again. I feel young … as when the world was new.

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Maybe it’s a total coincidence, but could he be the same Tom Bok who worked with Steve Meretzky on 1997 video game The Space Bar?

More info at https://www.giantbomb.com/the-space-bar/3030-7022/

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Note that Bok is one of those words that can be randomly assigned as an item name or magic word in Beyond Zork. I remember the first time I got the Amulet of Bok.
Also, the source code for Hollywood Hijinx includes a routine named BOKS-BIG-ONE. Did Tomas Bok write some uncredited code?

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Was Tom Bok Tomas Bok, son of Derek (President of Harvard) and Sissela (a distinguished philosopher) and grandson of two Nobel Prize winners? His sister Hilary is now a prominent philosopher herself.

The dates line up around right for him to be in high school then, and he would’ve been in Cambridge, MA when he was in high school. And FWIW his mother and grandparents would’ve been Swedish.

I would speculate that that’s this guy. And I suppose someone could write him and ask him about it.

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So um

That’s er

That’s not the Cambridge Analytics (Analytica?) he worked at, was it?

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I don’t think so! Different Cambridge (Massachusetts, not UK), and this one seems to have operated from 20112-2015 or so while the notorious Cambridge Analytica was founded in 2013. It looks to me as though it was just the corporate entity under which he hung out his consulting shingle for a while.

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I know at least one person has already done so (so don’t inundate the poor man.)

Not sure how I’d feel if someone “unearthed” one of my dreadful teen QBasic adventures, to be honest.

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1986 was the year Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out, which is what came to mind when I read that opening paragraph!

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Jason Scott has reservations about this situation:

https://twitter.com/textfiles/status/1202782338041761792
https://twitter.com/textfiles/status/1202782759925813249

I spent some time tracking this down with Adam. This is an Infocom playtester’s private experimentation with ZIL, trying out some of the language and techniques. It was absolutely never intended for the public or any sort of product; it’s mentioned nowhere whatsoever in memos.
I suggested not releasing the source code unless the author (who I figured out) wants to do so, and I don’t imagine he does. It’s historically interesting to have someone playing with ZIL code at the time of Infocom, but it’s truly the equivalent of private mail.

In practical terms it’s too late, this news ran around all the IF enthusiast circles in like an hour, it’s out there. But keep the context in mind.

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Hold on… The above isn’t quite correct.

“I suggested not releasing the source code unless the author (who I figured out) wants to do so”

This reads as though Jason advised me not to do it but I went ahead anyway, which doesn’t reflect too well and isn’t correct.

The sequence of events was:

  1. I released the video with the link
  2. I shared the video and link on social media
  3. Jason messaged me, we had a good conversation in which he advised against sharing code from the USR directory; and I wholeheartedly now agree.

In my enthusiasm I possibly jumped too quick, hindsight being what it is I possibly could/should have checked in with Jason first. But as I’ve expressed elsewhere there’s nothing of concern in the files, they are just code.

To be clear I released it quickly and enthusiastically, no one advised me against it before the event.

Thanks folks.

Adam

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Edit to my above Edit (!)

Just spoken to Jason, so when we had our original conversation about it he wasn’t aware that I’d released the link and video at the same time, so that explains why it looked like he’d advised me against it and then I went ahead anyway.

All cleared up now.

As a gesture, because of the wider context, I’ve removed the video and links (and tweet and Facebook posts) which I realise is a bit of a moot point as it’s now out there BUT it’s a gesture of acknowledgement.

Again, it was just enthusiasm at wanting to share what I’d found.

Thanks

Adam

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