Pennsylvania Reintroduces Fire Towers


I’ve been fascinated by the whole fire watch thing since reading the book by Philip Connors.  And of course, now there’s an incredible game out, Firewatch, that sadly, comes as close as I ever will to experiencing it.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t dream.  Almost all of the fire watching jobs I’ve seen have been out in the East, but it turns out that after 70 years of using more techie ways to do it, PA is reintroducing fire watch towers.  Now they’ll need people to staff them, eh?

via Pennsylvania Reintroduces Fire Towers – AMC Articles

TortoiseSVN Externals

I know that I’m going to forget this within the next couple of weeks, but it’s worth remembering.  When adding dependencies to your SVN projects, use externals.  They’re a little confusing, but if you use the “drag and drop” method outlined in the documentation, it’s not that bad.

Creating externals via drag and drop

If you already have a working copy of the files or folders you want to include as externals in another working copy, you can simply add those via drag and drop from the windows explorer.

Simply right drag the file or folder from one working copy to where you want those to be included as externals. A context menu appears when you release the mouse button: SVN Add as externals here if you click on that context menu entry, the svn:externals property is automatically added. All you have to do after that is commit the property changes and update to get those externals properly included in your working copy.

Now on GitHub, VsPad!


Yesterday, I published a new GitHub project aimed at facilitating a relatively light-weight “playground” type environment for testing code in Visual Studio.  It is inspired by LINQPad.  Here is the README for the project:

LINQPad is a .NET language playground that quickly and easily allows you to type in or paste code for testing and refining without having to go through the trouble of creating a Visual Studio project.  I highly recommend it and it can save you a lot of time.  It is an excellent piece of software.
However, as I was seriously considering what type of license I should try to ask my company to reimburse me for, I was mentally going through the benefits of each one and realized that I would need the premium version.  Syntax highlighting, autocompletion, outlining, code snippets, NuGet integration, integrated debugger, etc… Sound familiar?  Why not just use Visual Studio, I thought?  The main difference is that there’s a lot more overhead to firing it up.  Nothing can be done about that.  There are also the built-in LINQPad extension methods, such as Dump, which displays a very nice tabular display of the object or primitive that you need to view.
But with those benefits aside, I felt it was a bit much to ask my company to pay for this software when they are already very generously providing an MSDN subscription. Not that the Premium license fee is a huge financial burden, but still… So I went about seeing if there was a way to get some of the convenience of LINQPad back into Visual Studio.
VsPad is what I have come up with so far.  It still has a much larger footprint than LINQPad, but thanks to a clever extension method from _Noctis_ at CodeProject to provide the Dump() functionality, I can get most of the benefits of a premium license.  Not to mention that I have access to any other feature of Visual Studio and whatever other third-party add-ons I have, such as ReSharper.
To use VsPad, clone it or download the solution file and open it up in visual studio.  It requires the Newtonsoft JSON package for displaying the Dump() results, or of course you can just use Console.WriteLine().  I recommend running it in the debugger after setting a breakpoint or start it with Ctrl-F5 (which will run the console program and leave the console window open until a key is pressed, so you can see the results).


VsPad is available on GitHub.

ExoDOS Playthrough, Altered Destiny, Ad Verbum

Ad Verbum

[4/5 stars]

AdVerbumI’m not sure exactly why some of the more modernish IF community games are included in this collection.  Maybe it’s a sort of “best of” addition to the classic DOS games.  I’d been meaning to get around to this game for a long time.  It seemed similar to an Infocom game that I was a fan of, Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Heads or Tails of It.  As modern IF goes, Ad Verbum is one of the best. The puzzles are challenging, but they are presented in a more than fair manner.


Altered Destiny

[2/5 stars]

For being developed by one of the “greats”, Michael Berlyn–maybe not the worst Sierra-esque graphic adventure, but… so much of the progression through the game is spent trying to navigate your way through pixel-wide areas, stepping to either side of which can cause you to die instantly that it is very quickly not fun to play.  Funny death scenes are not bad in themselves, but it gets old in this game.  I think if you can get past the frequent complicated control / death dynamic then it might be an enjoyable game.  For me… I have over a thousand more games to get through here, so I need to keep moving.

ExoDOS Playthrough, A-“Ad “

A Day for Soft Food

[3/5 stars]

OK, so I guess I’m a cat.  Not a good start (I hate cats).  But not a bad game, anyway.  Puzzles involve figuring out an elaborate chain of events to get food before the timer runs out (you’ll probably have to restart a few times), outsmarting a rival cat and so on.


A Dudly Dilemma

[0/5 stars]

I couldn’t get this one to run.  I hear a single note from my emulated AdLib soundcard (or whatever) and it freezes on a black screen.


A Matter of Time (1995)

[2/5 stars]

RayTraced.jpgLooks like somebody got a ray tracing program and was looking for a way to get some use out of it.  Graphics involve the typical mirrored spheres and other geometrical shapes, along with some others–perhaps digitized photos.  Not all of them are this cheesy, there is some well done stuff in here.  Actually, though, the graphics get a little annoying past a certain point and hinder the game by breaking it up with lengthy load-time waits.

It looks like the plot is you are going back in time to rescue a murder suspect that is searching for the existence of God.  You follow him back in time and end up encountering… Not much really.  A forest, a cave, a waterfall, a dinosaur.  After a few times of being eaten, and having to go through the intro with all of the slow-loading graphics, I called this one.  Being that it is an “introductory adventure” meant to entice you to purchase the full version, I have a feeling I’m not missing too much.  Still, it’s not totally unworthy of a quick play-through.


As a minor point of interest, this may be the first game in the post-Infocom era to not have a response to ‘xyzzy’.


 A Mind Forever Voyaging

[5/5 stars]

And so we come to the first Infocom game in the list.  I believe these are still being sold by someone… Activision?  Not sure.  So it’s not technically abandoned like most of the other games in this package.  However, between all of my Lost Treasures, original game purchases, and iOS/GOG purchases, I own this one a few times over.

Here’s the thing–I only played through the first section of this game at this time, and decided to “table” it for now.  As I work through the ExoDOS collection, I am looking more for “quick-hits”–I could probably spend the rest of my free time playing through these until I die–but I don’t want to do that exactly.  I’m trying more to find the hidden gems in here and move quickly through the other ones.  AMFV falls into the hidden gems category, and as such, I am going to collect these and do them later, giving them the extra time they deserve.


A-MIS Adventure

[3/5 stars]

Not bad for what it is… A quick little text adventure in which you play the part of a programmer coming in to work over the weekend to fix a horrible bug in your program code.  The game is not without its frustrations–such as having to punch in a code to unlock a door every time you go through it.  Most of the solutions make sense, or are at least easy enough to figure out.  One thing that tripped me up for a while is that being in the same room as an object that you need to use is not necessarily the same thing as carrying the object.  Shouldn’t take more than a half hour or so, from start to finish.


The Abbey

[2/5 stars]

Fairly extensive mapping at first yielded a large map but no real direction on where to go.  Thus, this became boring quickly due to the poor pacing of the game and the story.  Still, it should earn some marks for good grammar and spelling and a dark, brooding atmosphere.



Too many text adventures lately.  I know from reading about this game that it is pretty brutal.  I think I’ll save this one for later.  Ad Verbum would be next, and I am looking forward to that one, but I am in the mood for a more graphical game right now.  So I’ll end this here and move on to the next one of those…

Draw Something 2

So where did Draw Something 2 go?  My family is going through a Draw Something phase right now.  So I can scrape together a mediocre Draw Something picture, I guess, yeah, but… It dawned on my that I was much better with Draw Something 2 (DS2).  It has more colors, better tools, more things to unlock… It was all around a far better piece of software than DS.

And there is literally, like, no information about it on the web.  Google searches for stuff like, “What happened to Draw Something 2” really don’t yield any useful information.  Just mostly very positive reviews of the product, proving that I am not crazy–at one time it did exist.

So I emailed the company.  Unfortunately, DS2 is no longer.

Art with Friends 2 game has been closed since 2015. It’s data are no longer available. Over the past few years, we have had a great time working on Art with Friends 2, and we thank you for joining us on that journey.  As the Zynga family of games continues to grow, we have had to make hard choices as to where we can best strike a balance between supporting Art with Friends 2, and creating new games for you and others to play.  As a result of this, we’ve shut down the Art with Friends 2, to make room for future game offerings. I recommend you to play on Speed Guess Something, Draw Something 1 or Draw Something Messenger.

ExoDOS Playthrough, 1-9

So I’ve more-or-less decided to play through the exoDOS archive in alphabetical order.  It was either that or random, but the types of games I’ll encounter going through them alphabetically will essentially be random, but I’ll also be able to keep better track of my progress.  So that’s what we’ll do.  There’s no way in the world that I have time to give every game a full playthrough and a proper review, so I’ll try to breeze through them, adding mini-reviews grouped by alphabetical first letter.

The 11th Hour

[1/5 stars]

The first game in the collection you come to is The 11th Hour.  Or The 11th Hour: The Sequel to the 7th Guest, the way it’s referred to in the manual every single time it’s used, to the point of being ridiculous. We get that it’s a sequel!

Anyway, the ridiculousness doesn’t end there.  The entire thing is ridiculous.  The acting… The “atmosphere” mentioned in any blurbs about the game.  It’s not dark and spooky.  It’s annoying and ridiculous.  The puzzles are either completely random, unplayable without a walkthrough or basic “brain teaser” logic puzzles like trying to get chess pieces to where they need to be on a chess board or figuring out a random sequence of digits. Not what I’m looking for in an adventure game.  I had to abort this one.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

[1/5 stars]

Ostensibly based on Jules Verne’s classic.  The game begins with a fake news headline regarding the departure of the Abraham Lincoln to seek the sea monster off the coast of Queen Charlotte’s Island.

Right off the bat, there’s a huge “strike”.  I click on this thing that looks like a staircase, and it turns out that I flood the submarine that I’m on and have to go all the way back to the copy protection screen. Apparently you need to save very often in this game if this is going to be what it’s like.

And now I’m stuck on a boat looking at an island.  After being locked in my cabin.  Not exactly what I’m looking for.  I think I will hit the abort button on this one, too.  I promise they won’t all be like this!  Er… Actually I’m going to skip the next one in the list entirely on the premise that it doesn’t really look like what I would consider an “adventure game”.  So… Moving on, then…


3 Skulls of the Toltecs (1996)

[2/5 stars]

Hopefully this game can redeem the 1-9 games in the archive.  I’ve never heard of it, but the screenshots look decent, so I am hopeful.Asian

Well, after playing a bit… I guess it’s slightly better than the first few games I’ve played in the archive.  But still, in the opening sequence, I poison an old guy and then rob him.  Not promising. The game gets points for being LucasArts-ish, but in the end, it’s just not that interesting.  And the humor… I’m not PC by any means, but it seems it could be offensive to just about any one of any type of minority or religious persuasion, judging by the first, maybe… 1/10th of the game that I played.


3D Dinosaur Adventure

[1/5 Stars]

Not in any way an adventure game.  I admit, I got excited when I saw the screen for the “exploration” phase as it looked a lot like a Legend Entertainment / Magnetic Scrolls type of game, but alas, that’s not what it was.  I suppose this was probably an impressive piece of software for its time, and if someone is interesting in teaching their kids the naturalist/evolutionary view of the earth’s history it may have some value, but it is horribly out of date anyway.


4K Adventure

[3/5 Stars]


My first victory in this collection.  That’s not saying much–it’s described as “ideal for a complete beginner providing they
examine everything” in the Readme.  The puzzles are of the “look at x, find y, use it on z” variety.

This is really not bad for a game developed from scratch in Assembly.  Yeah, I don’t like that the “unknown input” message and the “item has no description message” are the same, and there are a few other minor flaws like this, but not bad, considering.

The game captures the spirit of the pre-Infocom text adventures very well–but it does feel updated somewhat.  No mazes, and I wasn’t dying without warning at every turn.  I ended up with a score of 72–not sure what the max is.  I suspect there is something you can do with the fungus to increase your score, but I’m not sure what it is.  Anyway,  I reached the conclusion of the game, so I’m happy.  Also, just for the heck of it, I ran a few of the other .COM files in DOSBox–a fun little addition to the game. This one is worth checking out if you have a few minutes free some day.


The 7th Guest

[?/5 stars]

I had to defer this one for a later time.  After aborting the 11th Hour due to the fact that it sucked, I couldn’t see giving this one a fair chance.  Maybe at a later date.



[3/5 Stars]

The last game in the 0-9 series.  Next starts the “a”s.  A daunting task if I have ever seen one. I think I’ll split them into sub-groups.

9:05 is essentially a puzzle-less game in which you can play through a few different ways to experience a slice of life from a few different angles.  I’m not usually one to play a game through after reaching the end, but this piece is short, and replaying it seems like almost the entire point (you’ll only see what I mean once you have tried it). With that being said, there’s not really a satisfying ending.  I kept looking for ways to “win” but there were only other paths you could take–the most interesting one being the path that you probably took in the first place.

9:05 is the first piece of IF from Adam Cadre that I can remember playing.  Not that I’ve been purposefully avoiding his stuff–it just happens that I haven’t gotten to it yet.  I will definitely check out his other stuff–I see quite a few games out there.