with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Computer Game – She’s Got A Thing For A Spring

Upon purchasing a big whizbang computer in 1993, I asked Brent what kind of computer game or software he would like to have. “If you could have anything, what would it be? Flying fighter jets, shooting bad guys and monsters, car racing, virtual reality anything – what do you want?”

Without much hestitation, he gave me his answer. “Zork. Remember those old text adventure games? I want Zork.”

Play the Game
To play Brent’s award winning game, She’s Got a Thing for a Spring, you need two things. First, you need the game file. Then you need software that interprets the computer code and converts it into a playable format.

1. Download the Game File:Click here to download the game file (size: 310KB).

2. Download the Windows Interpreter file: From our web site winfrotzR53.zip or from online at ftp://ftp. ifarchive.org/archives for winfrtozR53.zip (size: 174KB)

For a list of other interpreters for different computer systems check out the list at http://www.ifarchive.org/ indexes and the if-archive infocom interpreters for Xfrotz.html for more info.

3. For more information on installing the program and running the game, click here.

NEW SIMPLE METHOD: If this is too complicated, some creative folks have come up with a way to play the game “fuss-free” online on a web page. You have to be online to play it, though. Check it out at http://www.ifiction.org/ games/.

“You mean to tell me that we have just purchased a mega-expensive computer that will build robots, drive cars, walk, talk, and probably wash windows and you want a text computer game that requires less than 640K RAM and a black and white monitor to run?” Indeed that was what he wanted, and off we went to the computer store. We returned with Zork.

For the new generation of computer gamers, let me explain Zork. As an experiment in programming, some really smart guys at MIT got together and re-created an extensive underground cavern system. Messing around with it, they developed a program that allowed the computer user to wander around and “see” these caves as graphic text. It was the first steps towards virtual reality, which in this case was textual reality. Using your imagination, the words would paint the picture of the underground network. For fun, they added a few ghouls and trolls and this eventually became “Zork: The Underground Empire”. As with all good ideas, it didn’t take long before this became a cult classic and spread all over the world.

Several sequels to Zork followed, and as with all good ideas, the games were bought up by another company with grand ideas that didn’t go very far. By this time, the computer was going graphic and pictures replaced text. A few of the faithful kept playing with the idea of the text games, but as commercial products, they died off due to lack of public interest. In the mid 1990’s, Graham Nelson released a freeware program called “Inform” that allowed text game enthusiasts to create their own games in a format that was compatible with the legendary Infocom games like Zork. Inform is not the only system like this, and it also wasn’t the first, but it rapidly became the most popular.

By developing a program that allowed you to write your own Zork-like games, the old player fans became programming fans, returning once more to the ancient ways and revitalizing them with hot, fresh, and innovative ideas. Inform became the subject of numerous discussions online and soon an international contest was announced. Brent revived his Zork enthusiasm about this same time.

Brent Creates She’s Got a Thing for a Spring

As the stress of preparing to hit the road escalated, Brent found an escape in the world of IF, Interactive Fiction, as it is now called. Imagine writing a book that allows the reader to influence the choices and adventures of the main characters! Can you think of a more exciting release for a stressed out brain like Brent’s?

He played with several story ideas, messing around with the programming, always pushing its limits to see what it could do, what it couldn’t, and how to change that. When we hit the road in the middle of winter, he spent hours in the early darkness of night at the computer, figuring out his story ideas. Unbeknownst to me, he had a great surprise in the works.

On the morning of May 14, 1997, in Ft. Worth, Texas, I crawled out of bed, weary already with the day. We’d taken my mother to the airport after almost two weeks spent locked up in the trailer and truck with her. She can wear out the best of folks, but now I was in withdrawal. Sitting on the table was a white envelope. Brent is famous for finding the most beautiful and perfect cards for me and filling them with words that make me cry with joy, literally. I knew that this one would be no different. What I was not expecting was the computer disk that fell out of the envelope along with the card.

He peaked out from the bedroom with a shy grin on his face. Correct that, it was truly a devious expression. I turned on the computer and popped the disk in.One of the elk from the game, early in the morning, Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Brent VanFossen

“This is it!” he says as he dodges the last pothole and brings the truck to a stop. After twenty miles of the worst washboard road the country has to offer, you’re just happy to have arrived.

You place your sandaled feet on solid ground and take a deep breath. The smells of autumn are at once sweet and earthy and full of the aroma of moisture and living things. A cool breeze blows in your face, soft and gentle. What a nice change, what a welcome relief from the tension and hustle of all you’ve left behind this weekend. It’s just you and your husband, as he promised over a month ago.

You look around. What passes for the road you just traveled ends abruptly here. Over the last hour, bad asphalt gave way to gravel, which gave way, in turn, to the rutted two-track you see beside you. Ahead, the ruts continue, but it’ll be on foot if you’re to go any further. The old beater truck stands here, engine off but still ticking from the trip. Your husband closes the driver’s door and comes around the rear to join you.

Brent had not only written a game for me, he had written a game about me, and us!!! He took my passion for hot springs and nature and turned it into this wonderful game filled with our adventures and love. Amazing.

When I had finished playing the brief game, my heart was filled with love and amazement. What an amazing birthday present. After receiving his due reward, I told him that this needed to be in the next IF contest. The entry date was in the fall and all it needed were a few fixes and it would be ready. I unleashed a monster that day.

Running email in the backroom of a local computer shop, Whitehorse, Yukon, photo by Lorelle VanFossenMonths and thousands of miles later, we were making our way south along the Alaska Highway, and the submission deadline was looming.

With only one day to spare, we found a company in Whitehorse, Yukon, that agreed to let us connect in their backroom. It was a computer nerd’s dream and a housekeeper’s nightmare. There were eight or ten work benches, all of them occupied, so to speak. That is, four techs were hard at work, and the other four benches were piled so high with oscilloscopes, circuit analyzers, power supplies, signal generators, DSP’s, soldering irons, circuit cards, microfans, microswitches, disk drives, monitors, and an infinite assortment of 3-year old hardware, that it was impossible to see from one bench to the next.

“There,” one tech pointed with a flip of his hand. “You can sit there. Here is your phone line.”

Fine, we thought. Now, if we could only find a place for the laptop. We connected and uploaded the file, beating the deadline by the skin of our teeth amidst the clutter of computer hardware bits and pieces. We laughed with the techs and thanked them for their generosity and for allowing us to intrude into their isolated world.

Dr. Bob and Winning Awards

As the contest progressed, we awaited the final verdict with nervous tension. The first reports came in and they were incredibly enthusiastic. One man reported that while the contest rules state that you are to play the game for no more than two hours and then make your judging determination, he had taken the game on his laptop out onto his balcony to play, finally stopping when he could no longer see the keys to type. He’d been at the game for four hours and hadn’t even realized it. Others were thrilled with the novelty of a nature scene to explore, tired of country villages and caves. And everyone loved Bob.

The character of Bob was actually a composite of several people Brent knows, including a doctor we met in Arkansas while exploring and visiting with our friend, Tim Ernst. Retired and living part-time in a two room “shack” in the middle of the mountains, this country doctor enchanted us. Brent honored him in the game by serving strawberry shortcake, just as the real Dr. Bob served us in the hills of Arkansas. We didn’t have time to get to know the real Dr. Bob, but Brent used him as a foundation and culled personality traits from others he’d known.

“Spring” is in the news!
Brent’s computer game, “She’s Got a Thing for a Spring”, is still the “talk of the town”, okay, well, at least among interactive non-fiction game players. We’ve posted a press release about some of the kudos and acknowledgments posted around the internet about the game.

What makes the game character, Bob, so unique is that until Bob arrived, the game characters were little more than talkative wallpaper. They would endure questions with little enthusiasm or too much enthusiasm, and just stand there. You would return hours later to find them in the same spot, even when the game’s time told you it was the middle of the night.

Brent realized that characters, even those in a game, are like the characters in real life and in books. They have a life of their own. They go from home to work, stop off for errands along the way, move around and do things just like regular folks. He wanted Dr. Bob to come alive.

Bob actually had a life of his own, independent from the player’s action and life. If you left Bob in the garden, you would return to find him gone. He’d be on the porch fixing something, or in the cabin or down by the stream. This gave the game not only a unique quality but an excitement that these games had not known before. Many players were so intrigued with Bob they never got to the actual game, spending hours interrogating him and following him around.

Brent’s game came in fourth place out of seventy-five original entries. Amazing! Not bad for a first time entry. A second contest which included all the games published that year had him nominated for four out of ten categories: best writing, best setting, best non-player characters, best individual non-player character. “She’s Got a Thing for a Spring” won “Best Non-Player Character” for Bob. WONDERFUL!

Download the Game

Got you interested? Here is how it works. There are two things you need to play the game: the game file and the program to run it. The program that runs the game is called an “interpreter” and it is platform-specific, which means that if you have a Windows machine, you need the Windows version. If you have MAC, you need the MAC version, and so on. But the game will run in any interpreter.

Download the Game File
Click here to download the game file. When it asks you to save to disk, save it to a games/spring directory (folder).
Download the Windows Interpreter file

This is the program that runs the game. From our web site winfrotzR53.zip or from online at ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/infocom/ interpreters/frotz/winfrotzR53.zip (size: 174KB). The file is in zip format and will need either WinZip or WinRAR to unzip (uncompress). For a list of other interpreters for different computer systems check out the list at http://www.ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archiveXinfocomXinterpretersXfrotz.html for more info.
Unzip the Interpreter to the games/spring directory.
  • Open the games/spring directory and look for a file called frotz.exe or just frotz. Double click on it.
  • Select FILE, OPEN
  • You should see spring.z8 listed. Select it and click OPEN or OKAY.
  • The game will start automatically.

If this is too complicated, some creative folks have come up with a way to play the game “fuss-free” online on a web page. You have to be online to play it, though. Check it out at http://www.ifiction.org/games/play.phpz?cat=&game=70&mode=html.

If you enjoy the game, there are many more games to play. We have included a list of our top recommendations on our Computer Fun and Games page. You can also find some of them at http://www.ifarchive.org for an extensive listing. The International IF Competition is held every fall and anyone can be a judge. The only requirement is that you play the games according to the rules and you send in your judging reports via email to the contest organizers by the deadline. If you want to get even more involved with writing your own game, check out the newsgroup at rec.arts.int-fiction. For discussions about playing the games, check out rec.games.int-fiction.

We hope you enjoy our game and Interactive Fiction games in general. We thoroughly enjoy them, even playing them as a team, one reading the text out loud and both trying to problem-solve the puzzles. During our adventures, we have found working on a game together to be one of our greatest joys!

One Trackback

  • […] A fascinating WordPress Theme has been developed by Rod McFarland called the “CLI WordPress theme”. It’s totally unlike any other WordPress Theme I’ve seen. In fact, it very much resembles the old text adventure games like Zork (and the award-winning one my husband wrote). You can read more about it or just take it for a test drive yourself on the WordPress Theme Viewer. It’s not a Theme for everyone, but it is certainly intriguing. […]

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