To long-time visitors, YOIS should look more or less the same as what you're used to. This page serves as an introduction to the Shoppe's new features.
First off, you may have already noticed that the URLs (web addresses) of the new YOIS pages now end in an extension of ".php", and not ".html". This is so they will be compiled and processed by PHP, the web-scripting language YOIS now uses. The ".html" pages are gone, so you may need to update a bookmark or two in your browser. If you're typing in the URL, you can save time and keystrokes by leaving off the ".php" altogether. And don't forget the Shoppe's new easy-to-remember domain name, yois.biz. (It's a redirect; I'm still with IF-Legends.)
Nearly everything stored in the Shoppe is now managed by the MySQL database engine. The new system keeps track of what's in stock and what's reserved for whom, so I don't have to, because (let's face it), I make mistakes sometimes. I manage the lists through my own series of administration screens and can easily mark (and instantly update) what's been paid for and what trades have or haven't gone through, keeping the list constantly current. When new items are added to the Shoppe, they will be available instantly, not whenever I happen to find time to hand-edit and post the new list.
You probably noticed the message at the top of the main page stating that "You are not currently logged in." Anyone is free to browse the Shoppe columns, vault pages, and the sale and waiting lists, but to actually buy and trade you will need to register with YOIS. The database stores your e-mail and shipping information so I can get back to you without having to dig through past e-mails, or asking you to resend contact info with every order.
Registration is quick and easy, just a few fields: Name, address, e-mail, and a user ID and password, you know the drill. Once you've entered information, YOIS uses the standard "confirmation link" method of verifying your e-mail address (sending a test e-mail to the address you provide and asking you to follow a link provided in said e-mail).
If you pre-registered for YOIS, either to preserve your waiting-list entries or as a beta-tester, you are already in the system and don't need to go through the registration step again. If you don't remember your username or password (perfectly understandable, considering how long I've had the site down), there are options to recover both on the login page.
Trading and Buying
When you click on an item on the sale pages (incidentally, you now have the option to browse the entire list on a single page, and to sort by title instead of company), you are taken to a screen with additional information, where you can make a cash offer on the item, or trade for it. In the future this page will also show you scans of the item, once I have time to make them for everything in the Shoppe.
If you choose "BUY", the new system allows you to make an offer just like you would to me, only now you don't have to wait for me to e-mail back. In keeping with YOIS' standing against completely fixed prices, I've populated the database with minimum acceptable offers for each game, individually thought up by me personally. You'll be prompted to enter an amount, and if we're in agreement, you'll be given the option to either mail your payment with a printable order form, or pay instantly though PayPal. (Shipping costs are calculated too, using several different options, so you don't have to wait on me for a postage quote.)
If the amount you enter is not high enough, that doesn't necessarily mean I won't accept your offer, it's simply lower than the lowest price I trust the Shoppe to accept for me. The item will be put into "trade" status and we'll discuss it further through e-mail. There is also a ceiling in place for each item, so if you offer too much it cuts it down to a more reasonable price. And if you really have no idea what to offer, there's even a "YOU TELL ME" button, which will quote you a price that you can either accept or turn down.
If you choose the "TRADE" option, you'll go to a slightly different screen where you can enter the details of your trade offer. Trade offers won't be confirmed until I have a chance to look over the offer and perhaps discuss it further, but once the item enters a "trade" status, it will no longer be available for cash purchase... though this will change if the trade doesn't go through. However, you can still propose a trade, as I will go with the offer I like best when trading.
If you're buying multiple items, you don't have to pay for all of them individually, and you don't have to pay immediately. If your cash offer is accepted on one item, you can continue browsing the list and the item will be held for you. Then, when you're ready, the "VIEW YOUR ORDER HISTORY" link at the top of the main page will allow you to select one or several confirmed items and decide how you want them to be shipped. You could, for example, ship several items in one lot and hold others for later (perhaps for a few days until your PayPal account fills up again).
If you want to work a trade involving multiple Shoppe items, it's okay to type all the trade details with the first item and simply add "See my previous trade offer" on the others. I'll figure it out. You can repeat the process at any time to bring other items into the trade or remove items you change your mind about, so complex trades that evolve over time are still possible.
Items can be held for a maximum of three weeks without being paid for (or traded for, once a trade is confirmed). After that time the item will be freed up and available for other Shoppers to purchase. You can still reserve it again, for another three weeks, provided no one else takes it first. This will help curb the seemingly endless stream of deadbeats who reserve an item but then don't pay for it, leaving it (R)eserved until I get around to updating the list. It's now done automatically, and FYI, deadbeats, I won't even feel your presence in the Shoppe anymore, so there. (Aww, who'm I kidding? I doubt any of the deadbeats even read these columns.) As a slight downside, this also means that, in the interest of keeping the automated list accurate, I can no longer "pull items aside" for a month, two months, etc. If you need them reserved for that long, it'll be up to you to watch when the reserved status expires, and grab them again.
That said, I ask (nay, BEG) you to initiate all purchases and trades through the Shoppe screens. PLEASE do not send me e-mail asking, "Can I buy this?" or "Can I trade for this?" That's the old method, and it means going through and manually editing the data to set up trades, which is precisely what I'm trying to get away from, because it's a complete headache and leads to outdated and erroneous stock lists. Go through the Shoppe screens, so the database keeps track of things for me, that's why it's there.
Offering a Wanted Item
If you have an item on my personal want-list, working out a trade for it is basically the same as before, except it's done through the Shoppe page. From the main page, click on "SELL TO THE SHOPPE" (or you can still get to it through the for-sale page) and from there you can choose the item you have that I'm after. You'll be taken to a screen where you can quote me a price or ask me to make the initial offer.
If you'd like to trade for something in the Shoppe, use the trade method outlined above to select the specific item you want to trade for.
The Waiting List
The waiting list is completely up-to-date, as I've cleared out all entries with invalid and unresponsive e-mail addresses. You must be registered to use the waiting list, as it uses your confirmed e-mail address to contact you. When an item is added to the Shoppe, a script automatically checks it against the waiting list, notifies you if there's a match, and temporarily reserves the item for you.
Items are reserved for three weeks and (this is important!) you must respond within that time. If you don't, the item will be offerred to the next person in line if there is one, or freed up completely if there's not. Users who continually fail to respond to waiting list notifications will have their existing entries deleted, and will not be allowed to add any new ones. This is designed to curb space-wasters who clutter up the list but never reply to e-mails (and it's a serious problem: nearly half of the old waiting list was composed of deadbeats and expired addresses).
It's okay if you don't buy the first match that comes along -- being a collector myself, I understand the desire to hold out for the best-looking item possible -- but you need to at least respond with a "yes" or a "no", to indicate you're still interested. If you acquire the item independently, without the Shoppe's help, it's easy to remove your entry from the list using the "VIEW YOUR ORDER HISTORY" link from the main page. Then you won't continue to receive notifications for games you no longer need.
Those of you who've avoided the waiting list in the past, because you either don't want your e-mail address publicly visible or don't want every other collector in the world to know what items you're after, will be pleased to learn you can now make your waiting list entries private. This will match up items in the same way as public entries, but the entries themselves will only be displayed on the page to me, when I am logged in (and to the Shoppe code, when I add new items). No one else will be able to see them. The trade-off is that no one else will be able to contact you if they happen to have that item, only myself. (Note that, even if your entries are public, YOIS adds an anti-spam string to your e-mail link, to guard against any web-parasites who attempt to harvest the site.)
If you maintain your own want-list on your own collector site, I'd be glad to include a link to it. Note, however, that the Shoppe will not automatically match you up when I add new items. I will try to check periodically, before I list any new stuff.
Please note that the waiting list does not yet handle keywords, so if you enter text such as "folio package only", you're going to get false-positive matches. Go ahead and be as specific as you'd like, though, as other people browsing the list will know what you're after. And don't worry, I'll be watching the waiting list closely the first few times I add items, so nothing that should reach you will accidentally slip by.
Finally, there is an ability to search the Shoppe! If you're looking for a column you read awhile back, you can now search on a keyword or phrase rather than browsing each individual column. If you're looking for info on a particular game, you can search the text of all the vault pages. And you can search the list of items for sale based on title, company, or keyword(s) in the description (for instance, "shrinkwrapped", "folio", etc). For everyone who's ever asked me for a sale list just for their particular computer, you can even build your own by choosing from a list of platforms. Your query can be as general as a search for all games with "Zork" in the title; or as specific as for Zork I, in the Solid Gold package, for the Apple II.
The search code is not finalized, so please don't overset your expectations for it. It will search correctly on exact matches against multiple fields, but does not yet handle:
Other Temporary Workarounds
The site was designed for an 800x600 browser window (the size I use, and still the standard). In the coming months I will enhance it to appear better in larger windows, but in the meantime you may want to temporarily adjust your settings to make the text easier to read.
Currently YOIS has been tested with Netscape on both PC and Mac platforms, as well as with the Earthlink browser and several versions of Internet Explorer. Opera, AOL, and the text-based Lynx should also work fine, though only minimal testing was done with them. In the case of Opera, you will definitely notice some oddities with fonts and formatting, and you may need to hit "refresh" manually on some screens before changes will take effect. If you notice anything peculiar with the Shoppe's behavior (browser-related or bugs), please let me know. It will help tremendously if you can provide the exact version of the browser you're using, the URL (web address) of the problem page, and a detailed description of what you were doing when the error occurred.
Item pics are coming soon: I've just purchased a new USB scanner!
I'd appreciate any other constructive suggestions you might have about the site. It may take awhile before I get around to implementing them, since I've already got quite a pile stacked up, but there's plenty of room to throw new ideas on. I'm just starting to realize everything I can do with PHP.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
How about a nice standing ovation for my beta-testers: Dave Aston, Simon Marley, Pedro Quaresma, John Schultz, and Tom the Mage. And to the I-F Legends gang in Germany, for giving encouraging comments on the in-progress site when I really needed it. (Paul David Doherty even found a couple of bugs.)
Extra-special thanks go to Mia Chikamori for going above and beyond the call of duty in tracking down those 11th-hour bugs, and to Adam Baratz for pushing me to get started in the first place, and for his tremendous help with the baseline PHP and a lot of the more complicated stuff. While I might have been able to do it alone, it would have taken ten times as long and wouldn't have ended up as good.
And to all the YOIS fans, for your patience and understanding over the last nine months... Jeez, has it been nine months already? Guess this baby is due!
Believe it or not, there actually is some other collector news, though some of it may be long outdated by this point...
Another Fond Farewell
It's a damn tragedy. First Douglas Adams and now this.
For those of you who didn't already hear, science fiction author George Alec Effinger (best known among Infocom fans for Circuit's Edge and The Zork Chronicles) passed away on April 27th. He was 55.
Following his initial critical acclaim and success, Effinger had a difficult couple of decades, plagued by emotional and financial problems, alcoholism, and a recurring terminal illness. The last time I corresponded with him, late last September, it seemed as if things were starting to turn around, and he was even working on the fourth book in his Budayeen series.
Mr Effinger was a brilliant, woefully underappreciated talent in his field, and he will be sorely missed. Most of his books are out of print, but can still be purchased online at Alibris, and I strongly encourage you to check them out. In addition to ZC and the Budayeen series, I personally recommend his time-travel spoof The Nick of Time, and the short story collections Dirty Tricks and Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson.
March 23rd and 24th were historic dates in I-F history, with two noteworthy gatherings taking place. One was the IF-Legends get-together in Hildrizhausen, Germany, the centerpiece of my second European Tour. By cosmic coincidence, this weekend was also the 2002 Infocom Reunion, when all the former Implementors got together for a couple of days at Steve Meretzky's house (whose name, you may recall, is Homer).
Nearly all of the other IF-Legends site owners were present:
I'd like to once again thank Manuel for letting me stay and planning out a great couple of weeks. Seeing the countryside and cobblestone streets of Europe, riding the coasters at the Europa Park, game-hunting, Mystery Science Theater 3000, riding on a bus and not being physically assaulted by the driver... it was a little slice of paradise. Completely unlike, oh, say...
Detroit Suck City, Revisited
Well, I wish I could give better news on this front. I've been in contact with people at the bus company, slowly climbing the corporate ladder... to nowhere. The short version is: These people are either thoroughly incompetent record-keepers, or very crafty at covering things up. (I choose to accept the first explanation.) A Mr William Tony, head of customer service at the SMART Bus Line, could find no record of a bus with the number I gave, at that location, at that time of day, with a male driver. So they can't identify the filth behind the wheel. I've thought for a long time about what to do next, and have at long last arrived at a painful and difficult decision.
I'm going back.
Not for awhile. Maybe later this year, maybe early next. First I need to find someone willing to come with me and drive around the city, picking me up as I bus-hop to find the S.O.B. who hit me so I can provoke him into trying it again (and to bail me out if I end up doing something uncivilized). In exchange, you get full reimbursement for gas money, free lodging and meals courtesy of me, a guided tour through the fabulous ruins and crackhouses of downtown Detroit, and the opportunity to watch me act like a complete bastard to total strangers. Sound like fun? E-mail me if interested.
My anti-Detroit website (tastefully renamed to "PissOnDetroit" after September 11th) will go up once the new Shoppe stabilizes. And after I have a chance to return and gather fresh material.
Speaking of September 11th, just an FYI / warning to anyone planning to game-hunt or meet with other collectors when travelling: I strongly urge you not to take shrinkwrapped games through an airport. When I left for my tour of Europe, as an experiment I took along one of my shrinkwrapped Infocom Cutthroats (very common and easy to find), just to see if airport security would open it up.
While they didn't touch it, in either my carry-on luggage or checked baggage, I did note that a few passengers were singled out for random bag searches. Dave Aston, whom I met during a brief stopover in London's Heathrow, told me I didn't look the least bit suspicious (which I agree with... I mean, how could you not trust an honest face like THIS?), but it's still possible. This goes for sealed prop trays and unopened blister packs as well. If you value your shrinkwraps, stick to sending these items through the U.S. Postal Service, which is nowhere near as paranoid as the airline industry.
(Incidentally, it was rather pathetic and frightening to note that the U.S. still has the least intensive security screening process out of the three countries I flew through.)
In Frobs We Trust
Haven't heard back from him in awhile, but the last I heard, Robin Lionheart was heading up the Zorkmid Project, negotiating with Activision for the rights to mint replicas of the zorkmid coin included in Infocom's Zork Trilogy package.
As of this writing, it seems like he's got the go-ahead, with the understanding that these are to be paid for by buyers pooling their money together for the one-time production run. That is, if you want one (or two or three) you pay your share of the cost to get the coins minted, rather than one person incurring the full expense and then selling the coins for a profit. Right now it looks like this will be surprisingly affordable, about $7.50 per coin if a quantity of 500 is produced. Even less if the dies used to cast the originals can be tracked down and reused.
And don't worry about unscrupulous people buying up the replicas and trying to pass them off as originals: Robin has assured me that the plan, if affordable, is to change the year on the replicas from 699 GUE to 700 GUE. Even if not, the mint by federal law is required to put their mark on every coin they produce, so it'll still be possible to tell the difference.
If you're at all interested, definitely let Robin know, since the more zorkmids the mint produces, the lower the unit cost will be. If this goes through, it will be the first official game-related replica in history. And there's always a chance it may satisfy the more casual collectors, thus cutting down on the demand for the original pieces... although the true completists among us will probably want to own both.
Dysan Dissertation: The Final Conflict
FINALLY scored my first Infocom Dysan box, and can now report firsthand on the appearance of this odd variation.
They are indeed in a bright red slipcover, about the size and thickness of an Activision Collection box, with the title and Infocom logo in green and the company name in gold. The gold box under the slip is open-ended. That is, there's no top box piece to cover it. As a result, the slip is pressed in a little bit in front. (And I don't believe it's missing half the box: It doesn't look like there'd be enough room in the slipcover if a top box piece was laid over it.)
The entire package is very light and flimsy-feeling, and a there's a lot of open space inside considering how few contents there are. There may have been some kind of padding originally, or perhaps not. The one I got is Starcross, and it has the map the same size but folded differently, a rectangular manual that's wider across than from top to bottom, and the trademark green Dysan label. (No alien-contact instructions, maybe it's incomplete.) The description on the back paraphrases and dilutes the original Infocom blurb.
Hilariously (especially since Dysan was a leading manufacturer of floppy disks), the slipcover side states that it contains 3-1/4" (not 3-1/2") media!
Pics are going up on the vault page soon.
Just a word to any unscrupulous eBay sellers who actually read this column and are thinking of lifting any of my images and/or text descriptions of games to use in their auctions: DON'T. In the last few weeks I've had to nail a few people who copied my text word-for-word, linked to my images, saved my pics to their site and passed them off as their own, etc. I work hard to come up with concise, readable descriptions of games, and it really bugs me when people swipe them for their own commercial use. It's called plagiarism. It's called intellectual property theft.
If you want to borrow my words, all you need to do is ask permission and mention me or my site in the auction text, and I'll say yes. (I do ask, however, that you not use my scans to sell your items. My item almost certainly looks slightly different than yours, which means you'd be misrepresenting your own copy.) Why not just link directly to the YOIS page itself? eBay allows links to pages containing additional information about an item you're selling.
I now have a script in place that queries each of my vault pages, then searches eBay for matches, and even preps the text I'll send to eBay's Rules & Safety. (Took me about 20 minutes to write, PHP is GOD.) So if you're stealing my content, I will find you.
Please note that this does not apply to web pages run by my fellow collectors. I have no problem at all with anyone using my scans to promote the collecting hobby. This rant is aimed at people who try to use my work for personal profit. (It's still always nice to get credit, though.)
"It's Gotta Be the Label"
There's a lot of room for philosophical pondering in the classic gaming arena. Join the Software Collectibles Mailing List and you'll be subjected to some of the most maddening and fascinating questions ever asked about this hobby:
Such musings inspired me to take a humorous (keyword: humorous) look at what exactly makes a collectible software package valuable. What one single component, above all else, defines the piece as a collector's item?
Well, for starters, it's got to be some piece directly related to the computer platform the game runs on, simply because some platforms are more collectable than others. PC tends to dominate, with an overwhelming number of collectors unwilling to even touch anything that doesn't run on an ancestor of their current XP juggernaut. (I've never understood this, myself.) Apple II has its share of diehards, particularly in Japan. And I've noticed Atari 8-bit, as a general rule, tends to fetch higher prices than, say, Commodore 64. So platform is definitely a big factor.
But it can't be the game disk itself. Disks are a dime a dozen, and the code that's stored on them is so effortlessly duplicated as to be worthless as a collectible. That's why abandonware hasn't killed off the collecting hobby: People want the stuff that's worth collecting, which can't be easily duplicated: The original packaging. Right?
Except, to most collectors, the original packaging is no good without the disk accompanying it. Loose props and empty boxes are next to worthless. Oh, sure, some easily-lost props (zorkmid coin, Sherlock key fob) can fetch a fair price when sold individually, but this won't compare to the complete package. Shrinkwrap adds to the value if it's still around the package, but just try pulling the plastic off the game and selling that. No, it must be something to do with the game disk, but not the disk itself. Follow?
Therefore, by process of elimination, I must conclude that the one single component, above all else, which defines the piece as a valuable collector's item IS...
Yes, you heard me. The label on the disk. Think about it:
So. It's gotta be the label.
Yes. I have lost my mind. Can someone please help me find it? B-)
I think that's everything for now...
Oh, check your e-mail program's address book. If you still have my address as the AT&T WorldNet one, it's no longer valid. This one is: firstname.lastname@example.org. (BTW, if you haven't checked out Earthlink as an ISP yet, I'd highly recommend it. In the two months or so since I first signed up with them, I have yet to receive a single piece of spam e-mail. Not one.)
Enhancements to the new Shoppe code are already underway! I need to streamline my behind-the-scenes admin pages, but am taking suggestions for other features you'd like to see. Send 'em over!
Yes it DOES. It's GOTTA be the label. B-)