What's New at Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe?


Here's what's changed at Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe during the past month:

02/14/2017Just in case anyone wasn't aware of this and wanted to support a former Infocom Implementor, Bob Bates has a Kickstarter project for a new text adventure game. The goal is already met but it's still got about a week to go.
02/12/2017I've finally found the time to post this after my January trip. I didn't mention it in advance because I didn't want to announce my absence to the whole world. Too many stories about people broadcasting on social media when they won't be at home, so it's a great time to break in. This is as close as I get to social media, but still. Not that I suspect any of my fellow collectors would ever do that (maybe Eyal Katz) but it's the Internet and you never know who else is reading except probably someone from the government.

Anyway, I took a week-long trip to upstate New York, and one of the prominent stops was the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester. I spent a full day in their archives, going through the internal Sierra On-Line materials on loan from Ken and Roberta Williams themselves, my excited collector hands in white cotton gloves so I wouldn't drip sweat all over the unique documents. I got to read some of Roberta's original design notes on the early King's Quest games, The Black Cauldron, The Colonel's Bequest, and the master shooting script for Phantasmagoria complete with notes and excised scenes. They also had a letter to the Williamses from Steve Wozniak, some photos of the Sierra founders from the company's early days, and a rare copy of the single-issue On-Line Newsletter from June 1981 (which I can't help pointing out that mine is in better condition).

I took photos of some of it, and most of them came out acceptable even with my low-end point-and-shoot. Unfortunately they have you sign an agreement that any pictures are for your personal use and won't be distributed elsewhere, so I can't post the zip for download here, but if anyone stopping by the physical Shoppe wants to take a look I'd gladly share them in person. The Strong is pretty protective of the materials it hosts - In addition to the aforementioned archival gloves, I wasn't allowed to use any ink pens (pencil only, which they provided) and had to disable the flash on my camera. Other than that they pretty much left me to myself to pore over the materials. I found the lighting at the viewing tables to be adequate but it's a little better directly above the reception counter, so I carried a few of the more interesting pieces over there to photograph them.

If you're going to be in that area I highly recommend making time to see all of this yourself. You can find their list of available materials and make arrangements to see them on The Strong's library page. Julia Novakovic is the archivist I worked with; let her know I sent you, and I'd be happy to provide you with the materials list I put togehter to save you the time of recreating it yourself. I suggest allocating at least two days - I spent so much time in the archives that I only had about an hour left to enjoy the museum itself, which showcases a staggering number of toys and games from the 1800s to the present. In the display cases I spotted a couple of Infocom folios and some other titles that I've had in the Shoppe. It's heartening to know that people care about these games enough to include them in a museum.

Jon-Paul Dyson, one of the other curators, told me that they had just received all of Brian Fargo's design notes and were still in the process of cataloguing them, so I may be taking another trip back in a couple of years to examine those. The museum even had a copy of the rare 1981 Saber Software release of Demon's Forge which was Fargo's first game, which explains why such an obscure title was so prominently featured. It was in pristine condition, so it was almost certainly an unsold copy Fargo himself had held onto over the years, similar to the unnumbered extra copies of Akalabeth that Richard Garriott gave away to a few people a decade or so ago.

The rest of the trip involved a drive across the state to see a friend, stopping at every retro game store and game-themed business I could find along the way. I ended up mailing three boxes of stuff back to myself, not much of it particularly rare or valuable, but things I couldn't pass up at that price. Just before I flew out I received a bunch of buy-one-get-one-free Subway coupons, so I took them along and ate as cheaply as I could, subsisting on a diet almost exclusively of Subway sandwiches. Exactly like Jared except for the secretly being a child molester part. In Rochester I do suggest the Swillburger, a combination arcade/bar set up in what used to be a church. (I don't normally post sociopolitical views here but I've long felt this country needs fewer churches and more game-related businesses.) The game selection was decent, though not as big as the Analog Arcade Bar in the Quad Cities and nowhere near Galloping Ghost in Brookfield. They did have the best fried chicken sammich I've had in a while.

If you're planning a trip to The Strong next year or in 2019, let me know your schedule and maybe we can meet up. I've heard Stanford has the bulk of the Infocom collection so I'd like to eventually check that out as well. I'm also going to Midwest Gaming Classic again in April.

There's one other thing coming out this year that I want to post about... but I can't just yet. As soon as I get the okay from the lawyers I'll announce it here.

New Shoppe items going up soon, and hopefully I'll get that last Personal Software Zork posted to BetterThanTheBay as well.


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