I considered putting this on the GET LAMP weblog, but I decided it just didn’t fit, because this isn’t really about the documentary, but about a person, and his relation to something he loved.
It echoed around inside interactive fiction circles that Paul Panks had died, and while people were positive this was a prank, the obituary was tracked down pretty quickly:
The life of Paul Allen Panks literally came full circle when he passed away unexpectedly July 5, 2009 two days before his 33rd birthday. He was born three months prematurely at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix on July 7, 1976, where he spent four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It was this fighting spirit that endeared him to us from the start, and helped him with the challenges he would face in his later years. Growing up Paul spent hours drawing, writing & creating computer adventure games, hobbies he enjoyed all of his life. He graduated from Chaparral High School in 1995 and earned a BS degree in Sociology from Northern Arizona University. Paul was preceded in death by grandparents Allen and Lois Panks, and Jim and Ann Williams. He is survived by his parents Gary and Judy, brother Brian, Aunt Jan McLaughlin (Jim), cousins Ryan McLaughlin (Sharon), Tim McLaughlin (Leann), Ethan and Mia McLaughlin, and the Loeffler family. He is also survived by Aunts Shirley Przylucki (Chet), Sally Higdon (Don), and many other loving family members and friends. A celebration of Paul’s life will be held 4:00 P.M. Wednesday, July 15, at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, 12861 N. 8th Avenue, Phoenix. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Paul’s memory to: The Marc Center East Village, 924 N. Country Club Drive, Mesa Arizona 85201, Attention: Cheryl Anderson. Life will never be the same without Paul, who left us way too soon. Arrangements by Messinger Indian School Mortuary.OK, so here’s the thing about Paul Allen Panks.
As part of the research for my documentary, I spent some time going through the Usenet newsgroups related to interactive fiction (one is rec.arts.int-fiction, another rec.games.int-fiction). I mostly wanted to get some ideas of what to focus on, who to talk to, experts who might not be obvious experts, or stuff I’d never have thought was important which in fact incredibly important. And this is what I learned:
There was a guy named Paul Allen Panks. His handle was “dunric” but he switched between the two names constantly. He was a frequent poster for years in interactive fiction newsgroups. He would enter competitions with his games constantly. And in the realm of the interactive fiction community of this period, nobody liked Paul all that much. He was abrasive, weird, and would go into bizarre spirals of text, driving his contemporaries (who would be horrified to be considered “contemporaries”) up the wall. Here’s a large collection of his postings, courtesy of Google Groups. He switched accounts a few times, and a couple of his accounts were banned for terms-of-use violations.
Here’s him announcing a leaving of Usenet Forever in March of 2006. It’s not clear if he posted again later. You never could tell. When I announced I was working on my documentary, Paul mailed me:
Hello Jason, My name is Paul Panks and I have authored well over 35 text adventures since 1994. I would be delighted to contribute to the documentary in any way I can. I am most noted for my text adventures “Westfront PC: The Trials of Guilder” and “HLA Adventure.” Paul
NINJA II: This is essentially the same Ninja game entered a year before, which the author expanded by exactly one puzzle (however, it didn’t improve things in any way). It’s arguable whether it was a legal entry for the IF-Competition, since its rules admit newly released games only; however, considering the ranks both Ninja and Ninja II earned in the Comp, this argument is mostly of purely theoretical interest.
Dear Interactive Fiction Enthusiasts,
I wish to discuss with you the nature of my game “Westfront PC: TheTrials of Guilder”. It has been called a cross between Zork,Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Wars and several online MUDs(Multi-User Dungeons). I am very humbled by such a mixture and amwarmed to the heart by the kind praise and words of encouragement.Westfront PC (or simply, “WFPC”) is not meant to be a traditional textadventure game. It was inspired by a host of adventure games, fromZork to The Pawn to online MUDs and even some Graphical Adventuregames. It is an odd mixture to say the least. But the truth of thematter is this: Westfront PC is half adventure Â game, half an insidejoke and the rest eccentrically fun nonsense.The game itself has 1,728 “rooms” spread across four differentcontinents. But the fun of the game is not so much exploring the roomsas it is discovering new items and solving the various puzzles andquests around the game.Strange events such as a “mysterious voice” that bellows odd phrasesto the now infamous “Inspector Funkydog” spice up the gameplay. Thepleasant use of color in the text allows for easier reading and bettersense making.Gameplay is straight forward: Solve 25 quests and defeat Salin’s EvilArmy. Sounds easy, right? Along the way, make new friends (Faldor,Wolf, Warrior, Zombie, Barbarian and Leopard) and discover new worlds(Burton Mansion, Hambley Abbey) in your quest to restore order to themythical land of Guilder.I coded Westfront PC on the Commodore 64 in 1994, which isn’t sayingmuch, other than that I tried to limit myself to the capabilities ofthe system. Soon after that, I ported the game over to the IBMPC-compatible line of microcomputers. And the rest, as they say, ishistory.I am currently working on a whole new text adventure in the moretraditional lineage, similar to Zork and Castle Adventure. My goalisn’t to surpass Westfront PC…it is to create a whole new adventuregame with different worlds to explore and much better roomdescriptions. If I receive even one positive feedback, I believe Iwill have succeeded in my goal of publishing an adventure game othersfind enjoyable.Thank you for listening. 🙂 Have a nice day!
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