Halloween pirates abound!

November 26th, 2012 1:43 PM
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The recent observance of American Thanksgiving and Black Friday has commenced the holiday season in the United States. Tis the season for dieters to feel guilt and shame as we indulge ourselves on a bevy of feasts and treats. Yet the gluttonous assault on our waistlines did not begin with this past week's mounds of potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. No, the gastronomical festivities truly began with Halloween.

October 31st doesn't mean much to my sweet tooth, which I lost a few years ago due to overindulgence. But I do enjoy Halloween much as I did in my youth: dressing up in costume. It's not much different from my former hobby in community theater, except there, I was in company where strange attire was the norm, and nobody gave each other a second glance. On Halloween, everyone stops to look and marvel at various abnormal accoutrements.

Halloween is an opportunity not just to be funny or strange, but also to uniquely express oneself. It's an opportunity I didn't pass up, taking a traditional nautical costume and adding my own 8-bit flair.

Arr! I be a software pirate!

This isn't the first time I've donned this costume; although I wore it in 2012, the above photos are from 2011, and I debuted it in 2005. I'm sure the idea isn't original and I got it from somewhere else, but the source escapes me after all this time.

I've found I get more enjoyment from the costume the less explanation it requires. Walking across the campus of my science and engineering-oriented alma mater, people just laughed and shook their heads. Strolling through Harvard Square, I would get either quizzical looks or a generic "Hey, look — a pirate!"

Curiously, there's one comment I received multiple times in 2012 that was unheard of in 2005: "Where did you find floppy disks?"

Organ Trail: Director's cut

January 5th, 2012 11:57 AM
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I spent this past Halloween playing and blogging about Organ Trail, The Men Who Wear Many Hats' zombie-themed rendition of the classic Apple II edutainment title, MECC's Oregon Trail. Now that modern update is going the Kickstarter route to get funded for Mac, PC, iOS, and Android ports. Check out the trailer (contains one swear word near the end):

The campaign even comes with its own fake backstory, which includes an unfortunate and gratuitous slam:

Originally developed many years ago as a teaching tool for students, schools across America used the game to prepare children for the impending zombie apocalypse, and dysentery. But what the public doesn't know is that the released version does not follow the program director's original design. Before they tried to have him killed, he stole all the code and it has taken him 40 years to program the game in his own vision. Unfortunately no one uses the Apple-II anymore, so he's putting it on those newfangled phones.

In addition to the ports, the game will also include new features, such as a day/night cycle, the ability to converse with NPC survivors, as well as a new soundtrack.

The project ends after thirty days on Thursday, January 19, at 1:20 PM EST, but by the time I discovered it on Facebook, it already had 91 backers and $4,417 of the requested $3,000.

I've nonetheless pledged $20, though what they'll do with these excess funds, I'm unsure; their promise of "If we reach $5k, we will add an Android and iPad version of the game to the preorder options" seems a sure bet. So I offer this challenge — and incentive: I will multiply my donation 12.5-fold if The Men Who Wear Many Hats offer a reward of an Apple II version of their game. Their fundraising video states that they're making Organ Trail to look like an Apple II game. Why not go the extra step and port it?

Halloween on the Oregon Trail

October 31st, 2011 11:37 AM
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Oregon Trail is one of the seminal computer games, making an indelible impact not only on the education of an entire generation, but also on the development of the interactive fiction genre. But a game that was fun thirty years ago could sometimes stand a little updating to make it more relevant.

With everything from romance to comedy having been infused with the pop culture phenomenon of zombies, and today being Halloween, what better time to bring the undead to the Oregon Trail? Courtesy The Men Who Wear Many Hats comes Organ Trail, the game that challenges you to survive a trek across the country in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. It's a brilliant romp with allusions to other undead manifestations, such as Resident Evil 4.

Organ Trail

It's the end of the world as we know it — let's head west!
Click to play.

Organ Trail isn't the first time MECC's classic game has been adapted to a free, online Flash format. Thule Road Trip eschews many of the embellishments of Organ Trail, instead opting to update the game to a modern setting with few other changes.

But the innovation and timeliness of Organ Trail ranks it among my favorite recreations of my youth. This time around, you have bigger concerns than dysentery! Enjoy!