Magnetic Scrolls Remastered

Hello everyone. Proposing,

Magnetic Scrolls Remastered

The aim is to “remaster” the 1980’s adventure games by Magnetic Scrolls for mobiles and desktop, making them friendlier to play and adding a modern, touch based UI and possibly to add extra content.

They would be released on App Stores for people to enjoy, either as free games or, possibly, charged at a small fee/lowest tier to cover inevitable direct costs (eg website hosting and Apple developer fees), with permission from copyright holders.

Supported Platforms: Windows/Linux/OSX, Android & iOS.

How it would work:

Built by combining the Brahman front-end GUI with a plugin back-end IF “engine”. The back-end plugin is an adaptor onto the Karlsson/Kinder/Meier/Doherty magnetic emulator.

The project would be open source so anyone can tinker with the code and features for themselves afterwards.

The picture below shows an Android demo. The Brahman “text touch” interface, illustrates one way how these games could be made much more playable on mobile with only the bare minimum of typing required. Many other enhancements are also possible such as a Map Page and Inventory Roster with icons.

Calling for suggestions, comments and opinions:

[]Is this worth doing?[/]
[]Do you think it should be free or have a small charge?[/]
[]If additional gameplay or content were possible, is this a good idea?[/]
[]Is (3) still true if it means charging more to cover the effort.[/]
[]There could be a small budget for new icons/cameo pictures of objects in the games, would anyone be interested in this?[/]
[]Other ideas welcome.[/]


I have a few old parser games up on the iOS Store. (Shade and Heliopause for $1 each; Dreamhold for free.) I can tell you that Dreamhold gets a steady 200 downloads a month. I’m sure most of those people never successfully enter a command, but at least they get to see it run.

The $1 apps get much less activity. Shade was selling under ten copies a month in 2014, Heliopause less. So if your goal is to get the game in front of new eyeballs, even a nominal charge is going to really work against that.

You could avoid that problem by releasing the apps for free with a “pay if you want” in-app purchase. Only a few people will push that button, of course, but that’s the reality of selling old parser games.

(Since 2014, Shade and Heliopause have been structured in a bundle – they’re effectively freebies that come with Hadean Lands. So I don’t have meaningful recent sales data for them.)

Hey thanks for the info,

The aim here is not for profit. It’s quite feasible to release these as totally free games, and you’re right, it would be nice to get them in front of more eyeballs.

So the real question is over how much effort is put in to make things nicer. For example there could be icons for objects on the inventory - or it could be just text. If someone made some icons for free, i would put them in, otherwise if for payment, this could happen but i would want to (vaguely) recoup some of this loss (i don’t think it would break even from sales).

The other option is to release the games for free with the minimum of improvements and just tweak them over time and make new releases. Although i feel the problem with the latter is that those people who might actually want to play these games, will do so with the early versions and never see the improved ones.

I know. There’s not a straight answer to this.

All suggestions welcome.

I think it’s a neat idea, but I think you should get permission from the copyright holders before deciding on many of those questions. Despite the existence of interpreters such as Magnetic, you might find more resistance than you are expecting and then all of your planning will have been for naught.

Hi Roody,

That’s a very important point. I once had a game rejected from the Apple Store simply because the description mentioned it was a “star trek like game”. The game itself had no mention of any Paramount trademarks. Personally, i thought that was a bit too strict, but it’s Apple’s choice.

In this case, I’ve already been granted permission. The copyright holders like my playable Android demo and are happy for me to go ahead. I plan to make mobile and desktop releases.

This is an opportunity for people to get involved in a bona fide, remastering of some classic games. Like i said, there might be a small budget for new icons, if anyone’s interested.

I’ve been in touch with one of the original writers, who’s willing to author some additional content. So that’s an option, but i don’t know whether it’s worth doing or whether anyone even wants it.

Today, i did some preliminary work on a sliding drawer inventory. I plan this to have drag and drop (no typing). Right now, it just shows the items as words. This is one of the places i would put icons.


Well, first off, I’d probably acquire/purchase this no matter what its scope just to support the novelty of it. As far as additional content goes, what would this entail? A separate game (the authors still have access to the old compiler?)? Some kind of hacking of the story files themselves?

I have to admit that I’ve considered doing an unofficial port of “Guild of Thieves” in the past, partly just because I wanted a version of it where finding the syntax for making a fishing rod didn’t drive me crazy. I also imagined I would drop several puzzles and hone its scope; it’s one of those games that I’ve never finished just because even the task of typing in a walkthrough was too tiresome for some of its more annoying puzzles (mainly thinking about the endgame here- I didn’t mind the “RAINBOW” puzzle).

I guess, optimally, the app would provide both original and enhanced versions, but just having the enhanced game would also be novel.

I don’t know if any general refining is also being considered, but endings in Magnetic Scrolls games are usually far from satisfying. Of the ones I’ve seen (“The Pawn”, “Corruption”, “Fish!”… I think maybe “Myth” too), I think “Corruption” was the most successful while the others gave sort of a “you’ve got to be kidding me” feeling.

Firstly, there is no way to recompile the original code. The story files will remain as is.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have additional content or improvements. Here are some ideas:

[]an easy one is, of course, to change or improve/extend the text.[/]
[]a meta-parser could be added to transform inputs the original game did not understand into ones it does. Using this, we could have new constructs and add new words.
Simple example. “wrist band” -> “wristband”.[/
[]automate puzzles with choices.
This would work by monitoring the world state and selecting appropriate choices in each situation.[/
[]additional objects.
It might be possible to add a few objects into games by adding them (and their support data) into the object tables.[/
[]new gameplay and puzzles
Would manifest as sub-games and be processed by a different engine (eg the Brahman game core).[/

Example: King Erik’s Palace; in the original you deliver a note to the Palace, but are never allowed in. Perhaps in the expanded version, you enter the Palace, solve some puzzles, meet the King, deliver the note, then leave. This whole sub-game would run in a different engine, after which you’d be transferred back to magnetic. Of course, this switch would be invisible to the player.

I like your idea about endings. There could be alternative or bigger endings for sure.

That idea for King Erik’s Palace is pretty cool. It’s interesting how there is so much more world building in “A Tale of Kerovnia” than in the game itself. I’d be a fan of anything that helps bridge the gap more.


At some point, I’ll be looking for alpha/beta testers. I’ll count you in.

Please count me in to! This sounds like a really cool project. I was wondering… are there any plans to implement things like the compass and auto-map windows from “Wonderland”? Also, how will font-choosing work? That was another thing I enjoyed about playing Wonderland on a 386 when it first came out… being able to use fonts types and sizes for different text ie; command verses room description text.


Thanks for your feedback.

There won’t be any need for a compass because you’ll be able to click directions from the text in all locations. But i do plan a map window and you’ll be able to click on location there and it will route to that location.

Good point about font selection. I’ve added it to my list. There will be a font chooser from which you can select the font for the main transcript window. However, it will be from a limited selection of fonts that are bundled with the app - certainly for mobile. Desktop, i might be able to access those on the machine itself.

As a side note, the transcript window is internally HTML, so it’s possible the original game messages can be made nicer with color, style and font changes as part of the remastering.

There’s already a universal scale slider in the settings. I’ve found this useful for people with different resolutions/DPI to resize not just the font but also the controls themselves.

added to list.

Users also appreciate having light-on-dark and dark-on-light text options.

In general, this is part of theming. Normally, there’s a least a light and dark theme.

Very nice idea!
edit: I don’t want to seem a robot.

  1. Is this worth doing?

  2. Do you think it should be free or have a small charge?
    The final choice is yours but I like the projects that are supported by a donation. A pay as you want sounds very nice also. Explaining what the money is for is always a plus.

  3. If additional gameplay or content were possible, is this a good idea?
    Mmmm… maybe wait until see the response of the user. Maye it can turn into a game system

  4. Is (3) still true if it means charging more to cover the effort.
    Krita makes its development with crowdfunding. They open a campaign for each aspect they pretend to develop. For example: “We need X money to make a tool that paints in this special way”. If its funded they implement it. If its not, they know that the new feature is not of interest.

Hi cibersheep,

thanks for your feedback. I’m going to post a project update in a bit.

I didn’t know about Krita, looks really cool. I’ll try it out.

Magnetic Progress

Here’s an update on the current state of the magnetic plugin. This week I’ve improved the inventory handling and drag-and-drop. You can drop items onto other items in the text and it tries to work out what to do. eg put X on Y or give X to Y or unlock X with Y etc.

Pic should animate:

There’s a lot to do, i admit. but it’s showing promise.

Balance of Features

I’ve had some interesting responses to the idea of adding or extending content. There appear two schools of thought:

[]Improvements and more gameplay are always welcome.[/]
[]The game should be kept in its original state - good or bad. Extension initiatives (if any) should become a game sequel.[/]

Interesting ideas here.

Something that’s generally agreed on is to improve the usability, ie to make the parser a bit more forgiving and implement shortcuts to typing. That’s what I’ve been working on so far. All good.

Legal Issues

I was hoping to release an early alpha (as work in progress) to anyone interested in poking it about.

However, my Android alpha project has been suspended on Google Play on the grounds of impersonation and copyright violation.

I explained to Google that i do have permission but they insist on verifiable proof. Unfortunately, that means emails from the copyright holders aren’t good enough (because presumably i could have forged them). Nor is, i fear, a signed License of Copyright because Google cannot verify whether those signatures are, in fact, genuine.

I imagine it would take a Copyright License agreement drawn up by a practising lawyer to be sufficiently verifiable.

This is annoying especially since Google are not the merchant of record when selling. In other words they take a sales fee, but it is the developer who is legally selling and is therefore responsible for any and all repercussions of infringements.

I’m going to pursue this line for a while longer. But without a breakthrough, I’ll have to abandon the idea; at least insofar as Google Play is concerned.

I have done a ton of reading on this subject over the past 5 years, and know a lot from extremely high-end 1990’s professional work. I can say that you should be highly concerned. It raised my eyebrows that Son of Hunky Punk featured “Zork” in their Play Store screen shots. You should have written and hard-clad evidence of your asset rights (for an established name-brand icon). Further, that you also consider international media distribution rights are much more complicated than just USA. Google and Apple are in the business of selling and renting Hollywood films and American Music Association (AMA) music… don’t assume these are minor and easily-solved issues.

Promoting small-time developers and authors is an unwritten rule of “welcome” (I’ll go on a limb of someone I do not know personally - and say Emily Short), but trying to cash-in on a major branded nostalgia grab is going to get lawyers and Google+Apple rejecting you in a Don Henley’s New York Minute. If the authors have sold their assets, “signed a label” for distribution, expect massive crackdown (my “out on limb” example of Emily Short is that she hasn’t “signed a label” and is an Indy who would generally ‘welcome’ featuring - but that’s based on my still somewhat limited personal impression that her fiction calls to the “better angels of our nature”).

I would suggest this, the current front-image of Google Play entry, be a DO NOT!

This has been part of my reason to treat Thunderword app as a “engine” and to encourage others to step forward with easy integration of browsing/download/searching apps - as it becomes a very complicated effort to deal with asset ownership, even screen shots! I’ve been in key places to witness the power of the brand owners.

I’m not sure what distinction you’re trying to draw here. If you want to promote the work of an indie artist, talk to them first and get permission. If you want to promote the work of a big-name commercial company – of the 1990s or the present – talk to them first and get permission.

What Google wants out of you is another matter. Ideally you can get in contact with a Google store representative and have a three-way conversation with them and the rights-holder. It would be reasonable to draw up a contract with the rights-holder first so that you can say “yes, we have a signed contract”.

The distinction was made: distribution agreements made by artists, even long ago. And the value of brand (or even a character in a story) in cultural recognition, for future films and such, even if it has no current retail selling value (as a game/story) today. I have never heard of a “three way live conversation” with a Google employee to resolve these issues. In fact, I’ve had discussions with dozens of software developers who say entirely the opposite. (Remember, Google owns Youtube, this issue of character names and specific artworks isn’t uncommon. Teenagers and spammers alike upload content constantly with Marvel / Star Wars / Pokemon names to grab search engine hits ) Can you cite a real-world example, like a blog posting, of this resolution?

The title of the app is a huge red flag, “Remastered” implies a re-release in video games / artwork. And it’s titled very much like an official release.


A combined conversation would indeed be productive, but i think these guys (Apple, Google etc) will also want some evidence on file. This is really what they’re asking for.

@allensocket, regarding the hunkypunk Zork reference,

I think Google haven’t noticed this because it’s a free app and they don’t check them.

Here’s my theory:

The significance of paid/free and why you cant change from free to paid;

They basically don’t care about free apps. a free app can go live without really anyone reviewing it. if later someone pops up and claims infringement, Google will suspend the app right away without discussion.

But for paid apps, they have to check up front, ie before the app is allowed to exist. This is because they can’t just pull an app that’s making money since that’s someone’s business and therefore a bogus call of “infringement” might lead to legal action for losses against Google.

The conclusion is that, if you plan to charge or might one day charge for your app, you must set it paid at the start and battle any Google issues upfront.