First a little ancient history, then a rant, and then maybe a vision for the future.
It would have been the summer or fall of 1982, just about 30 years ago today. I had a Kaypro II, my very first computer. Single-sided 5-1/4″ floppy drives and 64kb of RAM. I bought it when the price came down to $1,295, if memory serves. Anyway, my friend Jon Sievert, who had been instrumental in convincing our boss to invest in Kaypros for the office, hung out in his free time and swapped cool software at Kaypro user meetings. This was a couple of years before copy-protected software, and programs were passed around like party favors. So one day Jon showed up at my house and said, “Here, let me make you a copy of this. You’re gonna love it.” And he was right. I did.
What he gave me was, of course, “Adventure.”
“Adventure,” and later, “Zork,” transformed the computer from a rather balky utilitarian device into a magic playground. You didn’t know what might happen.
Another 15 years would pass before I discovered Inform 6 and wrote my first text adventure game, “Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina,” but I knew from the very beginning that this was a creative field I would enjoy. Today I’ve written six or seven text games, using three different development systems, so I feel qualified to make a few observations.
The Kaypro ran the CP/M operating system, a precursor of MS-DOS. The user interface was a command prompt. It looked like this: > The screen had one color: green. There were no graphics, no mouse, no sound, and no notion of networking. When you wanted the computer to do something, you typed a command at the command prompt.
Fast-forward to 2012: Computers today have graphics and sound. Many of them have touch-screens, and they’re small enough to fit in a backpack, or even in your pocket. Worldwide networking is a fact of life.
Today there are several full-featured development systems with which to write and deploy text-based games. And yet, the games produced with these powerful tools still use the command prompt as their primary user interface. Does this seem Read more