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Best alien universe ever. - I know it's wonky and I don't care [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Kake

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Best alien universe ever. [Aug. 28th, 2007|01:07 pm]
Kake
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I have by now told literally hundreds of people about this game, and the only other person to go OMG BRILLIANT was uon. But I have not yet told livejournal! Some of you are bound to like it. So here it is:

The Gostak

You will need a z-code interpreter to play it; on my OS X laptop I use Zoom. Just download the gostak.z5 file from that link, and open it in Zoom/your interpreter of choice.

It's a game; it's a puzzle; it's a very, very good depiction of an alien universe from the perspective of one of its inhabitants.

The reference is to the sentence "The gostak distims the doshes", which is used to illustrate how syntax can convey meaning — we don't know what a gostak is, nor what distimming is, nor what doshes are, but we do know that distimming is something a gostak does to doshes, and we know that doshes can be distimmed by a gostak. As you play the game, you uncover meaning-in-this-sense, and you learn how things are related to each other; but there is no perfect one-to-one mapping of the gostak's language to English, and I have a strong feeling that the gostak's universe is very different from ours.

I "completed" the game a few days ago, but there's still a lot to discover and speculate on, so I'm still playing it.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: pozorvlak
2007-08-28 12:30 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, I've heard of that game. It's pretty highly regarded in the IF community, as I understand it.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-08-28 12:57 pm (UTC)
You should try it out! Really.
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[User Picture]From: djm4
2007-08-28 12:35 pm (UTC)
That looks fantastic.

If I vanish from the real world for a few weeks, you'll know why.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-08-28 12:58 pm (UTC)
It's not extremely long as IF goes. My initial disappearance from the real world lasted about six hours, rather than a few weeks :) But I can't stop myself dipping back into it.
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[User Picture]From: sbp
2007-08-28 12:40 pm (UTC)
That does sound cool. As an old IF hand, I am duty-bound to try it :-)
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-08-28 12:57 pm (UTC)
Hurrah!
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[User Picture]From: valkyriekaren
2007-08-28 12:52 pm (UTC)
This sounds like something I'd enjoy, but I have no idea how to go about it.

Can someone explain this sentence to me in non-geek language?

You will need a z-code interpreter to play it; on my OS X laptop I use Zoom. Just download the gostak.z5 file from that link, and open it in Zoom/your interpreter of choice.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-08-28 12:55 pm (UTC)
A z-code interpreter is a program that deals with files. Zoom is a z-code interpreter like Word is a word processor, and the equivalent of the .z5 file in that analogy is the .doc file that you edit in Word.

So you download the file called gostak.z5, just as you'd download any other file from the web, then install Zoom on your computer, start it up, and use the File->Open menu to open gostak.z5, and it will start the game for you automatically.

Does that help or am I still being too confusing?
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[User Picture]From: valkyriekaren
2007-08-28 01:00 pm (UTC)
I don't understand the term 'z-code'.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-08-28 01:09 pm (UTC)
You don't need to. It's just a particular data format; I don't know the details of it either. "z-code interpreter" is analagous to "word processor". Just think of "z-code interpreter" as a blob of text that means "program that handles this kind of file".
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[User Picture]From: valkyriekaren
2007-08-28 01:10 pm (UTC)
OK... I've tried googling for this, but mostly what I find is a lot of stuff for Unix and MacOS. I'm on a mchine that runs Windows and I'm having difficulty locating anything that looks right. This is probably hampered by not really knowing what the right thing should look like...
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-08-28 01:13 pm (UTC)
There's a Windows version of Zoom here. The author warns that it's an old version, but that doesn't necessarily mean it won't work, just that it won't have the latest whizzy features (which you may not want to use anyway).

If that's no good, then try adding things like "interactive fiction" to your Google search terms. And if that doesn't help either, let me know and I'll have a search for you!
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[User Picture]From: djm4
2007-08-28 01:13 pm (UTC)
Try going here:

http://www.ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archiveXinfocomXinterpretersXfrotz.html

... and downloading and running WindowsFrotzInstaller.exe [10-Aug-2007]

I haven't tried it, but it looks like a good bet.

Then download the gostak.z5 file from here:

http://mirror.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/gostak.z5

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[User Picture]From: valkyriekaren
2007-08-28 01:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

This game had better deliver! It's taking ages to download the interpreter thingmy.
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[User Picture]From: djm4
2007-08-28 01:36 pm (UTC)
Of course, once you have the interpreter, there's a whole world of text-based adventures out there that you can play on it, most of which will download in the blink of an eye. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: lnr
2007-08-28 01:14 pm (UTC)
z-code is a sort of programming language for people who want to write text-adventure games. They write the code and save it in a .z5 file. So a z-code interpreter is a program which reads the .z5 file and turns it into the game for you to play.

Another analogy would be that z-code is like HTML. It lets people write web-pages and save them as .htm files, but you need to use a program which interprets the HTML code in order to actually see the webpage, and in that case you'd use Internet Explorer or Firefox. Firefox can be considered as a HTML interpreter.
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[User Picture]From: pozorvlak
2007-08-28 01:25 pm (UTC)
While you don't need to understand what z-code is, exactly, it may help if I explain a bit. Then again, it may only confuse you further: if so, ignore this comment.

You remember text adventures, right? Sometimes they're called "interactive fiction" or "IF". Games where instead of graphics, there's a textual description of your surroundings, and you type commands like "north" or "open door with key" or "attach wheel to rubber chicken then fit rubber chicken to rope then death-slide down ravine"? If you have no idea what I'm talking about, have a go at Hamlet - The Text Adventure, which runs in a browser and so doesn't require you to install anything.

Back in the day, this was an extremely popular game format, and even today there's an active community of people writing them - because there are no graphics or sound effects to suck up development time, you can spend much more writing time devising elaborate/fun/twisted/etc puzzles for the player to solve. Anyway, back when commercial IF was a going proposition, there were many more popular types of computer than there are now, and porting games to run on many different types of machine was a major headache for the games companies. So one games company, called Infocom, decided that they'd distribute all their games in a machine-neutral format, called z-code (after the first game to use it, Zork). Then they only needed to write one z-code interpreter for each type of computer, and then every game they wrote would be able to be played on every type of machine.

Sadly, Infocom folded some time later, but since then other hackers have written z-code interpreters for more modern computers, so we can continue to play the old Infocom games. There are also programs that allow you to write games in z-code (which can then be played using any of the z-code interpreters), and this is mostly how the modern IF community writes and distributes its games.
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[User Picture]From: valkyriekaren
2007-08-28 01:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks - that dos help, a bit.

(Yes, I do know what text adventures are. I was playing them when you were still in nappies, you whippersnapper!).
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[User Picture]From: pozorvlak
2007-08-28 01:36 pm (UTC)
In which case you were playing them at the age of three or four. Impressive early development! :-)
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[User Picture]From: valkyriekaren
2007-08-28 01:40 pm (UTC)
OK, I'm exaggerating a tad. But still. I've been eaten by a few grues in my time.
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[User Picture]From: marnameow
2007-08-28 01:34 pm (UTC)
That sounds ace!

(must not play text adventures at work)
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[User Picture]From: julietk
2007-08-28 01:41 pm (UTC)
uon showed it to me & I went "awesome!" but am refusing to actually play it for Too Much Else To Do reasons :-)
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[User Picture]From: glassstrider
2007-08-28 05:20 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I do enjoy some nice IF: they don't reinforce your stupidity if you do badly quite as much as graphical adventure games do, I find.

Thank you! I'll try to download it for my Palm, so I can play it on the move...
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