Friday, May 25, 2007

The Wumpus 2000 Blip

Many of the little projects I work on end up disappearing without a trace. They're sort of like elaborate paper boats that I spend years playing with, and then I launch them down the stream, and that's it. The only person who cares about the boat ends up being me.

I get particularly gratified when somebody finds one of my boat projects to be useful. This doesn't happen often...but it DID happen this month.

Someday I'll write a series of posts about the web stats for my site, but for now I'll say that I noticed a huge uptick in downloads of my Wumpus 2000 game. I finished the game in 2004 and released it to the world, but other than a few baffled comments and a sort of ambiguous review in SPAG #41, the game disappeared without a trace. The only people liable to notice it -- fans of Interactive Fiction -- were bound to be turned off by its compulsive, repetative, largely plotless nature. Wumpus 2000 was an unapologetic "cave crawl," and cave crawls aren't considered the cream of the IF-crop...especially not the sort that I made.

But now, three years later, Wumpus 2000 has made an online blip. Somehow Anna at Dessgeega Blog picked up the game and wrote a complimentary review about it, and I think she summed up its potential appeal:
wumpus 2000 - too vast and random for memorization - asks the player to devote that bit of attention and labor - in this age of flash games designed to be played and forgotten during a lunch break - and to reclaim the rewards of mapping a virtual world by hand: the written record of a game and the ownership of an experience.
As somebody who loves MAPPING games even more than I enjoy PLAYING them, I can't help but agree. I was particularly thrilled to see a smidgeon of a Wumpus 2000 map drawn IN SOMEBODY ELSE'S HANDWRITING! Not to mention the subsequent comments from people who have actually played (and even finished) the game.

Simonc over at GameSetWatch picked up on the Dessgeega post and actually said:
[Wumpus 2000] I suspect is the kind of experimental text adventure which can influence wider game design concepts from its odd niche.
I LOVE my odd niches! And apparently Wumpus 2000 is "old skool," like, even older skool than its two close companions -- Roguelikes and IF -- because of the complex, randomly-generated map and total lack of graphics or cardinal directions.

Picking up from the Dessgeega and GameSetWatch posts, Maggie Green of Kotaku wrote "Back to the (Hand Drawn) Future? (With Wumpus 2000)," and this post got splashed all over the place on RSS feeds. She expressed what the average player probably thought: "Cartography not being my thing, I can only envision hours of frustrating game play." Somewhere around there, Vash posted an ENTIRE transcript of a Wumpus 2000 game (click here and type "prev" if you're feeling brave), and it looks like he found the game almost as annoying as I find his blog navigation system.

So here's hoping that Wumpus 2000 DOES find its niche. I don't have hopes for a new genre of W2K clones, but I suppose stranger things have happened! I mean jeez, people still collect ASCII sigs, for goodness sake.


JJ said...

Hmm, not to mention the fact that one fine day I was trying to recollect the concept of miasmi (or whatever they call it for simulating reality) after a nostalgic binge of leisure suite larry and googling lead me to a site where someone did a academic type history of IF where YOUR game was cited precisely because it was a modern day cave crawler. Just like the original! And what was even cooler for me was that the author was not citing that many games to begin with. :-)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Ah yes, I wish I could find that "history of IF" article! If I remember correctly it didn't make any value judgements about the game, but it did mention it as sort of a "cave crawls are still being made" thing.

(Mimesis seems to have been the buzzword, maybe that's the one you're thinking of).

JJ said...

Yes, that is the word. And what do you know? Google is a mutual friend!


Muffy St. Bernard said...

Awww, thank you, Google! And thank you, jj!