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March 2011

The Z-Machine Matter Back Cover


What Infocom game would be complete without wonderful packaging, enticing back cover copy and photo of the in-game feelies?  So after I developed The Z-Machine Matter front cover, I spent some time mocking up the rest of the box.  This is a draft version using a photo by Mark Williams with some of Propnomicon's HP Lovecraft props. The final version will have a different photo, and I hope to include some Arkham Asylum props. Click on the graphic above to view it full size.  

Since no Infocom box is ever in mint condition, I tried to give the front and back a bit of the aged look that classic '80s games usually have.  Meanwhile, still plenty of programming required to get to a beta stage and not enough time to do it all.  

Thanks to Propnomicon for the inspiration and props.

The Johnny Dollar Matter


I thought my brother was a bit obsessive with his knowledge of Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, the Old Time Radio (OTR) show from the 40's and 50's.  But it turns out he's got nothing on John C. Abbott from the Washington DC area.  

About has exhaustively researched every YTJD episode in existence.  And he's gotten hold of the archive scripts for dozens of other shows whose recordings have been lost.  With that knowledge, Abbott has compiled a three volume encyclopedia on all things Johnny Dollar.  Every episode. Every detail.  Every expense account.  

The first volume also includes biographical information on Dollar. While not extensive, it was interesting to learn that Dollar had worked for Pinkerton's and as a Sgt Detective in the NY Police Department.  Dollar also served in the Marines in World War II.  The second volume is the longest, covering the pinnacle of the Johnny Dollar radio series, with Bob Bailey in the starring role.  In my view, those are some of the greatest radio detective stories ever recorded. 

My only complaint is that the cover artwork for these books is completely uninspired.  Otherwise, it's a great reference for OTR fanatics out there.


Insights from Blue Lacuna


Somehow, I must have missed this paper by Aaron Reed about the design and development of his award-winning game Blue Lacuna.  If you're not familiar with this game, is by most accounts, the largest Interactive Fiction (IF) game ever written.  Not only is it "novel length" but Reed also went out of his way to break down some of the traditional boundaries in IF by making the parser much more sophisticated and beginner friendly.  

Reed has published several essays on this topic they provide an excellent summary of his work.  "Lessons Learned Writing the World's Longest Interactive Fiction" (PDF). There's also "Aspects of an Interactive Novel" (PDF), and "12 Lessons Learned by Aaron Reed" published by SPAG.

I've incorporated Reed's Keyword Interface, Smarter Parser, Poor Man's Mistype into the Z-Machine Matter game and I think they're a great improvement over the standard Inform7 experience.  This is the type of functionality that I'd just never get around to coding on my own, so its great that Reed has made these truly reusable.  According to Reed, using these extensions can more than double the parser's success rate in understanding the intensions of new IF players.  If you're new to Inform7 I also highly recommend his book Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7

Reed is studying towards an MFA at UC Santa Cruz, but in the IF community, he's already an honorary PhD.  And if you use some of his Inform7 extensions, you can reap the rewards of his brilliant work. 

Hard Case Crime Relaunch


Hardcase Crime editor and founder Charles Ardai has let readers know that they're just about ready to relaunch their old school pulp crime novels with a new publisher: Titan Books.  They're launching several new titles this year by famous pulp writers Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, Mickey Spillane, Christa Faust and Max Allan Collins. 

That's in addition to more than 60 paperback crime novels they've already published which will be available again shortly.  They're available now for pre-order with delivery starting March 15.  Just around the corner!  

And Kindle versions are also available for reading on your favorite mobile device for just $5.50.  A bargain!