Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Nine Princes in Amber Computer Game

My first computer was a Commodore Vic-20. I guess we got it around 1983 or so. I loved that thing. It had a tape drive! I think I owned both pieces of software ever made for it.

A little later in the late 80s, we got an Apple Clone.  I loved the old text-based Infocom games, but they could be frustrating.

I read a review of the Nine Princes in Amber game in Dragon magazine at some point in the 80s,  but I never actually played it until I got to college, when I searched for it on a whim and saw that someone had uploaded an emulated version. I played it a little bit in the computer lab, but it made a ton of noise. The computer didn't have any speakers hooked up, but however the sound was made bypassed the speakers. It was embarrassing, even for someone who would play a ten year old game in a college computer lab, so I turned it off.

Flora's cultured tastes: "Carmella, I think that neon purple chair looks much more elegant on top of that fluorescent orange carpet. "

Seeing the game made me remember what I loved about those old games. Playing it made me remember what I hated about it. It was like a BAD text adventure game, where you randomly pair verbs with nouns until you find the completely arbitrary solution that advances the plot.

You know what, though? I see an emulated version is still up, so I'll give it a go for this post and see if it's any better than I remember!

Let's see.

All right. Hit orderly.

Break casts.



I forgot to read the chart before I left anyway, and if you escape without doing that (and learning your name is "John Corey"), it just results in you wandering the streets aimlessly. 

That's just an artifact of the time though. Modern gamers don't enjoy that kind of thing. I'm reluctant to say that gamers in 2012 tend to want their games easier, but there is a less of a tolerance for the kind of artificially inflated difficulty found in this game. I think that had things been different, and the game had been released for smartphones in installments in modern times, I think it could have really caught on. Though that's not to say that I'd want to see such a thing, as I think it would be too close for Zelazny's prohibition against other authors writing Amber stories for me to be comfortable.

 Zelazny contributed a blurb for the game, "I'm thrilled to see my Amber books become a challenging computer adventure. For anyone interested in exploring contingent paths through my tale, the possibilities here are almost endless", but he would have been foolish not to, so it's unclear if he liked the game or if he was just promoting it.

And of course, the actual writing would present any number of challenges. Such an author would have to understand the characters inside and out in order to understand how they would react in situations they didn't encounter in the books, and I doubt that anyone but Zelazny would be capable of that anyway.

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