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April 18, 2008

Milliways: More IF Archaeology


The interactive fiction world was surprised and excited last summer when Dennis Jerz uncovered a true relic of IF history, discovering the original code to Colossal Cave. Fascinating stuff. Then, more recently, Jason Scott had the chance to view another historical slice of IF when he was able to mingle in Steve Meretsky's basement, a treasure trove of Infocom antiquity. Now, IF archaeologists have apparently uncovered another prize: a complete backup of Infocom's shared network drive from 1989, which includes not only design documents, email archives, internal meeting notes, source code, and game files, but also code for a game made by Infocom but never released.

Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the unreleased sequel to Infocom's (and Douglas Adams's) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Waxy.org has an incredibly detailed account of its history and development spread over a number of years. Not only that, but they've made the compiled code available to be downloaded and played -- or played online with a version in Java. Not much there, of course, but who cares?

It's a great article that provides a fascinating look into the complex issues surrounding interactive fiction game design and development, as well as a tiny glimpse at what might have been. There are even comments after the story by those involved, including Meretzky, Lebling, Blank, and now Bywater (as the author, Andy Baio, wrote: "Steve Meretzky, Dave Lebling, and Marc Blank commented on my weblog. I think I'm going to pass out."). I'll leave you with this uncovered snippet from Steve Meretzky on the development of the game, but by all means read the whole juicy thing yourself.

"Doing Restaurant is not my Dream Come True, but I do have paternal feelings about the Hitchhiker's IF series, and I agree with those who think that letting Magnetic Scrolls do Restaurant would be, overall, a Big Mistake. I think we'd do a significantly better job, and that's good economically for Infocom and good aesthetically for the Hitchhiker's series."


Tip o' the cap (and a mighty thanks) to RPS for spotting this wholesome goodness.

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