Saturday, 24 February 2018

L.A. Law: The Computer Game – Case #3: The Battered Boy

by Alex

L.A. Law: The Computer Game might not be the worst computer game I’ve ever played, but it’s certainly the one that’s felt the most like work.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a great game by any stretch of the imagination. And the jury’s still out (pun not intended) as to whether or not it’s an objectively good one. But man, L.A. Law embodies one of my least-favorite adventure-game design choices, if this can even be called an “adventure game”: trial and error.

And believe me, this pun was also not intended.

Let’s pick up this thread for a second though. Adventure games usually consist of things like inventory based puzzles, exploration, and an overarching story. L.A. Law has none of these things. Maybe it has an overarching story if you look at the career dreams of your player character of choice. But in general, this game seems pretty thin in the adventure game department. Still, my torture is your entertainment, so without further ado, recess is over and court is now in session!

Okay, these puns were intentional. And I’ll show myself to the door now . . .

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Missed Classic 53: Cutthroats - Introduction (1984)

Written by Joe Pranevich

In 1984, Infocom had a fantastic idea: let’s make two nautical-themed adventures in a row! More to the point, Infocom was working hard to keep each of their key developers working on a game to release this year: Steve Meretzky on Sorcerer and Hitchhiker’s Guide, Stu Galley on Seastalker, Mike Berlyn on Cutthroats, and Dave Lebling on Suspect. (Marc Blank even produced one: the Tutorial Game that I looked at in my last bonus post.) The nautical comparison isn’t quite fair: while Mr. Galley had produced a rolicking sci-fi adventure in a submarine, Mr. Berlyn was aiming for a modern-day tale of treasure hunting and piracy on the high seas. Still, it seems odd to have two superficially similar games in a row.

For this game, Mike Berlyn picked up an accomplice: Jerry Wolper. Mr. Wolper was an Infocom programmer who would work on the technical aspects of the production while Mr. Berlyn worked on the story. Berlyn had already proven himself more than capable of handling the technical side, but this freed him up to be more of a creative presence than before and was well-aligned with other creator/programmer pairings the company was experimenting with. Seastalker had been built the same way, and Hitchhiker’s Guide will follow the same model in just a few months. Will this change help Berlyn to write the best possible game? Possibly, although it could also suffer from having a less experienced programmer at the helm. I guess I’ll have to play to find out.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - Jones in the Fast Lane

Written by TBD.

Indiana Jones Journal Entry #3: Sophia suggested we look for Atlantis together but I felt she'd just cramp my style. I'm using my own wits to find out if the place is real or the myth I've always thought.

Now that I've reached Atlantis on the TEAM path, it's time to backtrack and try to get here by WITS alone. So let's say goodbye to Sophia and use our wits in the fine city of Monte Carlo.

Thanks. Try not to get captured by Nazis while I'm gone.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

L.A. Law: The Computer Game – Case #2: The Blown Whistler

by Alex

Well, the people have spoken! The Adventure Gamer reading public actually liked the detailed, blow-by-blow account I gave of L.A. Law: The Computer Game’s first case. Here I thought it was too boring and dry, but the legal profession is all about upholding the process and the rules the people agree to! Who am I to argue? So instead of consolidating multiple cases together, I’ll go through one case per post. And since the boring basic stuff has already been taken care of, this should go a bit quicker than the last one.

First things first: in the comments to post one, Joe Pranevich wondered if the choice of character has any effect on gameplay:

“Do we know how the character selection impacts the game? Are there certain witnesses that one character is able to get more out of than another? Is one of the characters a superhero who can defeat difficult judges using the power of hypnotic suggestion?”

That would be fantastic, but I haven’t yet checked out other playable characters. Perhaps I will after I finish the game as Victor Sifuentes, but not until then, because this game is . . . hoo boy, we’ll get to that.

Continuing in the vein of Case #1, we’ll focus on L.A. Law’s two main aspects: Trial Prep and The Trial. In the meantime, there are two factors I want to keep in mind as a through-line for these posts:
  1. Does L.A. Law: The Computer Game work as a game?
  2. How well does L.A. Law: The Computer Game simulate actually being a lawyer?
Strap yourself in for some hardcore lawyering, because we’re about to find out!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Missed Classic 52: Infocom’s Tutorial Game (1984)

Written by Joe Pranevich

You might say that a guy who is trying to play every Infocom game in release order, plus read all of the tie-in books, is a bit of a completionist. If you then added that he was trying to do all this in a mad rush because he wants to be done before it’s time to review Return to Zork when we get to 1993, it’s probably best that I don’t know your opinion. If you asked my wife, she’s tell you that I like to do things in the correct order. I always try to read books in the order they were published, regardless of what the author says. I’ll probably never let my son watch the Star Wars prequels before the original films. The shared experience is important to me and my playing these games in order, I have a hope of understanding how the original players felt when these games came out, even if the average Infocom-purchaser wouldn’t have bought all of the games.

That leads me to this surprise. I had thought that Cutthroats was the next released game, and I’ve started playing it already, but while I was wrapping up the research I learned that I had been mistaken: there was one tiny Infocom release between Seastalker and Cutthroats. Around the summer of 1984, Infocom released two special advertising packages. The first of these, the so-called “Zork I demo” was a disk sent to computer stores. The intention, at least according to text in the demo itself, was that a customer in these fine establishments could sit at a computer terminal and play a few minutes of an Infocom game, become inspired, and leave with a handful. But while Zork I is a lot of fun, it wasn’t quite the perfect game to get players hooked. It didn’t hold players’ hands at all or even explain how you play interactive fiction. To remedy this, Infocom developed the Tutorial Game, a miniature adventure that would introduce the key concepts in a fun and lighthearted way.