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Czechoslovak Text Adventures

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jaroslav svelch

on 4 August 2014

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Transcript of Czechoslovak Text Adventures

Indiana jones fights the communist police
Jaroslav Švelch, Charles University in Prague
1980s Czechoslovak text adventures as a transitional media form
social context
as cultural practice
design conventions
Iron Curtain
limited exchange of goods and information with the West
no private enterprise
no market of hardware or software
lack of language skills
computer clubs
informal distribution networks
often parts of youth organizations, Svazarm
(Association for Cooperation with the Army)
mostly distributed on cassete tapes
fast and efficient
works at “the speed of lightning”
no respect for copyright
gift economy
micro computer
enthusiast community
no shortage of foreign game titles
calls for localization of TA
"The most serious problem for us due to the lack of time is the transcription of dialogue games from English into Czech. This is enormously difficult in case of games with compressed text. We welcome (and are ready to remunerate) any fruitful effort that would help include these specific, strategically and logically challenging games into the Mikrobáze collection […]"
(Mikrobáze Newsletter, 1986, p. 62).
domestic production
most of domestic games were text adventures
“We didn’t have time, knowledge or skills for anything more.”
in 1985-89 at least 65 TAs for ZX Spectrum
TAs become a locus of "vernacular" digital creativity
imported 8-bit computers (mostly Sinclair ZX Spectrum)
understanding the genre
“You are standing on a clearing near a huge rock massif. There is small opening in the rock at the ground level. Another quite big opening is about 15 meters above you. You can see a letter. You can go east. Command: ?”
"During the game, the player must decide for an astronaut, as if he was remotely controlling him. The aim of the game is to overcome all the obstacles, find a spaceship, ready it for launch and take off for Earth. There is an emphasis on player’s logical and creative thinking."
"textovka" (text game) - a broad term
smaller size, less complexity
specific fictional worlds
different interfaces: menus
a subgenre: hacking games
how much influence of Western TA?
community function:

"Play the role of the unemployed programmer Tim Coleman, equipped with a Timex 2097 computer and a RS-2368 modem, and try to rob other robbers with a little help from your friends"
System 15000 (1984)
sting III - podraz III (1986)
why him?
IJ and the Temple of Doom (1985)
IJ 2 (1987)
IJ 3 (inspired by the Last Crusade, 1990)

IJ and the Golden Idol of the Celts (1989)
The Adventures of Indiana Jones in Wenceslas Square in Prague on January 16, 1989
František Fuka (Fuxoft):
becomes a character
Stanislav Hrda (sybilasoft):
Fuksoft (1987)
Welcome, Tim Coleman, [...]
Vengeful Jack Ragger and Jonathan Fox got into F. Fuka’s apartment and plant a timed bomb there. I hope you will be a gentleman and won’t strand your friend!
You are standing in front of the Grocery House department store. The entrance into the subway is fortunately clear. An annoying man (probably a communist) is looking out of a balcony and happily watching the good work of the members of the Public Security. You can go down, to the right and inside. You see a cop.
You drove your axe so deep inside his skull, that it cannot be pulled out. You see a dead cop. (Znovuzrozeny, 1989)
crossover featuring
Fuka and Indiana Jones
Stinging Indiana Jones (1987)
web of references, fictional universe
confusion in sequel numbering:
two different Sting 4's, neither by Fuxoft
metatexts: messages, greetings
"Of course I want to say hello especially to T.R.C. and Cybexlab […] And, what’s going on?? Radek Solar still hasn’t returned the black shopping bag I left at his place on last year’s New Year’s Eve […]." (Indiana Jones 3)
towards the mainstream:
nationwide contests

“<< City of Robots >> A science fiction computer game. Produced by Zenitcentrum to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Pionýr Organization of the Socialist Union of Youth. (Press a key)”. The in-game screen: “I am on a metal-plated street. I see: A round building. A thin beam of light. A steel door. Robot parts. Exits: East. West. […]”
City of Robots (1989)
"encrypted", advertised in the national media
registration: 99 crowns
5,000 prizes
easy to hack
...What The Heck?! (1990)
"encrypted", advertised in the national radio
registration: 106 crowns
around 2,000 sold
prizes: trips in France
hacked by some
“There is *terminal* on your desk, that connects you to the newest agency news reports and the paper’s archive. The surroundings of the terminal are decorated with *messages*.”
to be continued...
“O.K. You are standing at an unobstructed entrance into the subway. As soon as you showed up, an officer came to you and searched you. Having found nothing, he called on his “comrades” and they beat you senseless. As they were running away to deal with some woman with a baby carriage, one of them lost a machete. You crawled for it and committed hara-kiri. INDIANA JONES IS DEAD [scroll]”
(movie ticket: 10 crowns)
Full transcript