We're finally there!
It has been almost two years since I started The Adventure Gamer. I had no idea at the time that it would attract a small community (I hoped it would of course), but figured it would be an enjoyable journey regardless of its “success”. One of the things that got me particularly excited at the time was that playing through the list would result in me experiencing classic adventure games that I simply missed when they first came out. For whatever reason, I’d never played any of the Gabriel Knight, Broken Sword, Tex Murphy or Myst games, which was something I was very keen to remedy (still am). There was another game I was just as excited about though. It was one that I’d first read about at the impressionable age of 13, and had been fascinated by ever since. That game of course was Loom! The reason I didn’t get to play it in the early nineties had more to do with distribution than choice. As much as I feel ashamed of it today, the vast majority of games I played at that time of my life came from a small pirating community at my school, and Loom managed to avoid the otherwise comprehensive library of floppies that resulted. Now that I’m finally going to play it, I do wonder whether the built up expectations can possibly be met. I guess we’ll know soon enough.
The Dig is another game I can't believe I never played
Loom was the fourth game created by Lucasfilm Games that made use of the SCUMM engine (the previous three were Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken and Indiana Jones). It was released in January 1990, and was the first game to follow Lucasfilm’s “Game Design Philosophy”. The philosophy stated that the player should never be killed or forced to restart a game, and was applied to all future adventure games that the company created. The lead designer on Loom was Brian Moriarty, who was already well known in the industry for having authored three of the original Infocom interactive fiction games (Wishbringer, Trinity and Beyond Zork). There were various influences that led to Loom’s creation, not least of all the word itself. To Moriarty, the word “loom suggested weaving, but also looming in the sense of towering over something, evoking mountains, power and menace”. It also shared the sound of other words “that bring to mind feelings of darkness and secrecy, such as gloom, womb and tomb”. From this starting point Moriarty created the Weavers, an ancient craft guild that secretly manage the fabric of reality, and the story unfolded from there. Many sites reference author Orson Scott Card (the Ender’s Game series) as having helped Moriarty write the story, but this is not true. Card’s involvement would only really have an impact a couple of years later, when he helped Sara Reeder revise the dialogue for the CD-ROM release (space limitations meant it wasn’t possible to keep all the original dialogue now that voice actors were involved).
Brian Moriarty: A very intelligent man
As a general rule I try not to read anything regarding the plot of a game prior to playing the game, but I have no hesitation in checking out everything that was originally included in box. In the case of Loom, the packaging contained a treasure trove of valuable bits and pieces. There was a manual of course, and a typical quick reference card, but there was also a document called the Book of Patterns (more on this later) and an audio cassette containing a thirty minute prologue to the game. This prologue gave the player some background to the events they would soon take part in, including the history of the weavers and the circumstances surrounding Bobbin’s birth (Bobbin is the protagonist). This recording was directed by John Reiger and included original music composed by Jerry Gerber (you can find out more on him here). Each of the characters involved were portrayed by voice actors, with many of them doing the voices for the same characters in the CD version a couple of years later. I listened to the prologue today on YouTube, and was really impressed. Not only is the acting for the most part adequate, the whole production is strong and the story itself really enthralling. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you intend to play the game (or have played it previously without knowing the full backstory). There’s a purely audio version here and one that includes images straight from the game here.
I may be sold on digital, but only because they don't make them like this anymore
I’ll summarise the prologue for those of you that don’t have a spare thirty minutes. It’s not clear whether the story of Loom is based on Earth, but the year 8021 may suggest it is set in the distant future. The world has become completely industrialised, with humans dominating nature and valuing skilled labour above all else. The common trades formed professional societies to protect their knowledge and to increase their power. Thus began the Age of the Great Guilds. The Guild of Weavers cared nothing for the politics and wars created by the greed of the larger guilds, and instead wished only to peacefully weave their fabrics in solitude. Weavers were not allowed to marry outsiders, so their numbers were controlled, and they soon became so skilled at creating fabrics that the rest of the world could no longer ignore them. Certain weaves could heal the wearer of the fabric, or even protect them from harm. They learnt to weave subtle patterns of influence into the very fabric of reality, eventually discarding flax and dies to instead weave with light and with music. The weavers were persecuted for what others considered to be witchcraft, and were forced to relocate to an island which they called Loom. Unfortunately, while they remained safe in their new homeland, they began to have trouble reproducing. A female weaver named Lady Cygna Threadbare decided something must be done.
Does anyone here actually own one of these?
Cygna had lost yet another child (either prior to or just post-birth), and approached the Guild Elders (who are named Atropos, Clothos and Lachesis after Greek mythology’s three Fates) to request they use the power of the Loom to change their fate. The Elders refused, stating that their purpose is the fulfillment of the pattern, and not to play God. They sent her away, threatening that if she were to make such demands in future or attempt to take things into her own hands, she would suffer the ultimate penalty. Cygna defied them, and returned to the Loom when the Elders were absent. She placed one gray thread in the Loom and began to weave, creating a child in the process. The Elders returned and caught her, and she was forced to surrender the child to a serving woman named Dame Hetchel. The Elders cast the “Transcendence” draft on Cygna, turning her into a swan and banished her from the pattern altogether. Hetchel named the child Bobbin and raised him as her own. Bobbin is now seventeen years old, and the Elders fear him as his existence throws the pattern into chaos. He is forbidden to learn the ways of the Guild, yet unbeknownst to them, Hetchel has taught Bobbin how to weave basic drafts. The prologue ends with Bobbin climbing the mountain he ascends every year on his birthday to watch the beautiful swan that passes by annually. He is unaware that the swan is the very woman that created him.
A really beautiful cover that conveys magic, mystery and wonder while putting the player in control before they've even purchased the game.
Other games on the list so far have had back-stories (Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess for one), but nothing as complex or comprehensive as this one. It has me chomping at the bit to join Bobbin on Loom, and to learn to weave as he does. I haven’t even started to play, but I already feel saddened to learn that Loom was intended to be the first game of a trilogy that never eventuated. The other two games were to be titled Forge and The Fold, and while I’ve chosen not to read their intended plots for fear of spoilers, it does seem they were pretty well formed in Moriarty’s mind from the outset. They were abandoned for the simple reason that Moriarty decided to move onto other projects, and no-one else at LucasFilm felt strongly enough about them to take up the reigns. All of the above information might make it sound like Loom was a one man show, when nothing could be further from the truth. After Moriarty had come up with the basic idea, he approached Gary Winnick (Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken) and Mark Ferrari (Zak McKracken), and the three of them came up with the look and feel of the characters and the environment. Moriarty has stated that they were very influenced by Eyvand Earle’s work on Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty when designing Loom. Ferrari would go on to illustrate the majority of the game’s visuals while Winnick would be responsible for the animation alongside Steve Purcell (Indiana Jones) and Ken Macklin (first timer).
I guess it's not terribly hard to see the influence.
The music wasn't the only thing Moriarty took from Tchaikovsky. Swans play a major role in the game too.
Does anyone have any advice before I make my selection?
Expert mode scares me! I love music and spent years reviewing it before starting this blog, but I couldn’t differentiate an E from a B, and would certainly struggle to remember numerous different “drafts” over the course of the game. I think I'm going to start in Standard mode and see how I go, despite there being a graphic sequence that only appears for gamers that play in Expert mode. I’ve downloaded copies of the manual and the reference card, and also have the Book or Patterns. This is a notebook of sorts that describes the history and purpose of many known drafts, and has spaces for the player to note down the drafts that they learn during the game (they are different each time you play the game so need to be learnt afresh with each play through). So, I think I’m ready to go! I know a lot of readers would have already played the game before, but from what I know it’s not particularly lengthy, so perhaps they’ll choose to give it another run through? My next post will not be a gameplay post, as I will be trying out an idea I’ve had for a while. Let’s just say that something arrived in my inbox at precisely the right time, and while I don’t believe in fate, it’s an opportunity I can’t let pass me by. For now though, I’m off to Loom. Wish me luck!
Um...high...low...um...highest...middle-ish??? I should have paid attention in music class.
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance (see below for an example bet). If you get it right I will reward you with 20 CAPs in return (Laukku cleaned up the 150 CAP jackpot last game so we're starting again). It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.
Example Bet:Gur rivy bar, fur ehyrf gur ynaq
Jvgu abg n pner sbe crbcyr'f urnygu
V jvyy svtug sbe serrqbz'f fnxr
Ohg svefg V arrq gb serr zlfrys
Jung vf zl anzr sbe 20 PNCf?
Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of Roberta Williams' King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown (the King's Quest 1 remake) from Steam! Good luck!