Play "Dungeons and Directories" game in your file browser

Originally published at: Play "Dungeons and Directories" game in your file browser | Boing Boing


Ooh! I have a new Dungeons and Dragons game! It’s played out by documenting and organizing a set of disparate general ledger structures across two competing financial systems, where assets are, um, magic missiles and liabilities are, I don’t know, kobalds? Anyway, I’m wondering if the person who plowed four thousand hours into this would like to help me develop it.


In the end, the current version of the game create 41,514 directories, 15,2041 files (mostly empty files with messages in their names), and 45,399 links, which makes it rather unplayable for those unfortunate enough to try running it on a mechanical hard drive.

Dear Goddess, couldn’t you have created this as a FUSE virtual filesystem?

Unfortunately the Linux version requires dolphin, so you need to install all of KDE to play it…

Back in 1985 or '86, a then-classmate of mine–Sean Barrett, who I believe is now an indie game developer–created a text adventure using almost the same idea.

It ran on the command line in VMS on a VAX. Actually, it was the command line in VMS. Each directory was a location. The commands were implemented as batch files in the given directories. So if you said “look”, that would execute LOOK.BAT, which printed out a description for your current location. If you said “west”, that would execute WEST.BAT, which would change your current directory (well, “default file specification” in VMS terms) and then call the LOOK.BAT that resides in the new directory.

I don’t remember the details of how objects were implemented. Some state might have been kept in your process’s environment variables.

It was a very clever hack. It was a remarkably easy system to work with the build or extend a game. Since everything was immediate, you could build a game as you played it–no edit/compile/execute loop.

This was about the same time I played SEWER, an adventure game implemented in TECO, a text editor with a comprehensive scripting language.

We should probably just be glad that they didn’t go all Tomb of Horrors about it by deliberately exploiting the perversities of whatever filesystem and environment was available.

On the Windows side, there are a lot of fantastic legal-in-NTFS moves that cause the win32 subsystem to act much like a sensitive youth from an old New England family when Cthulhu comes calling.


Oh, indeed. For a long time I had a whole of files w/ backslashes in the filename because I hardcoded them as path separators in a Java app… and when a computer failure drove me to plug the drive into a Linux box and mount it with NTFS-3G so I could keep that app running I didn’t pay close enough attention to its output. Lo and behold when I had the Windows box running again and brought the drive back, I had a collection of files that showed up in the directory listing but couldn’t be opened or deleted.

Now that the WSL exists you also have a variety of options for freaky intercultural misunderstandings without even having to dual-boot.

The other one that seems to freak most win32 stuff out is using the option to mount a partition in an empty directory, Unix style, rather than assigning it a drive letter. There’s nothing illicit about it; but most software I’ve encountered assumes that the size of all files and directories under a given drive letter is less than or equal to the size of the partition mounted at that drive letter; and that a subdirectory is not going to be larger than the directory it is inside.

Best case the notoriously unreliable progress bar just totally loses it, sometimes going so far as to start moving backward rather than just crawling forward inaccurately; worst case you get some fun breakages.

The other legal-but-messy one to play with is deny ACLs. For whatever reason(probably a good, or at least understandable, decision made by people way smarter than I am) a Windows system relies almost entirely on absence of ‘allow’ rather than explicit ‘deny’ when it comes to controlling filesystem access; despite the fact that NTFS ACLs support both more or less equallly(with denies taking precedence over allows when there is a conflict). So much stuff(including system components like TrustedInstaller that try to install/repair MSI packages) checks whether the ‘allow’ ACLs are right; and will add what it needs assuming it has the admin rights; but either doesn’t check or doesn’t handle ‘deny’ ACLs at all.

I remember this coming in really handy when I was working for a school system and we needed to break spelling and grammar check for students who had an accommodation that allowed them to type rather than handwrite; but didn’t entitle them to automated error correction. Office kept stubbornly repairing itself when we just naively tampered with the spell check components; but when we set denies on the files rather than deleting them TrustedInstaller got all kinds of confused since the files passed presence checks, since they did exist; but couldn’t actually be accessed.

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