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LucasArts' Secret History: Loom: Trivia, Downloads and Resources

29 May, 2008

Loom came packaged with a half hour long audio drama (on cassette tape or audio CD, depending on the version) that served as an excellent and unique introduction in the form of a backstory for the game's world and characters. The voice actors who participated in the drama reprised their roles for the game's eventual "Talkie" release year later. You can download this excellent track in mp3 form here.

The packaged "Book of Patterns" was a document in which the player is meant to record learned drafts they learned throughout the game. While the book wasn't strictly necessary (it doesn't matter where you write down your drafts), it did contain some interesting descriptions of all the drafts, including several that weren't featured in the game, whether they're there just for fun or because they were intended for a sequel. For the curious, here's a PDF of the Book of Patterns courtesy of our own Zaarin!

At one point LucasArts offered an upgrade for floppy disk versions of Loom from their web site (Correction: It's still up there! Though I doubt anyone has a computer ancient enough to actually take advantage of it) that made use of the then state-of-the-art Roland MT-32 MIDI synthesizer module on the latest soundcards, which resulted in a noticeably superior audio experience. This patched version of the game also boasted a bonus "Overture" at the beginning of the game from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

Brian Moriarty has said that after the release of Loom he entertained the notion of making it the first of a trilogy of games. Interesting, there is some contradiction in Moriarty's claims about the sequels. Consider what he stated in one interview:

Moriarty

Loom was conceived as the first game of a fantasy trilogy. The second game, Forge, would follow the adventures of Rusty Nailbender as he tried to regain control of the Forge, which was hijacked by Chaos in the first game. Bobbin was going to appear every now and then (as a swan) to offer help and advice, kind of like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Empire [The Empire Strikes Back] and Jedi [Return of the Jedi]. At the end of Forge, Rusty drives Chaos out of the Forge, but not before the gentle land of the Shepherds is conquered and nearly destroyed in a terrible battle. (The floating Forge ends up falling directly onto the Shepherds' pastures.)

The third game, The Fold, followed the adventures of Fleece Firmflanks, who teams up with Rusty to resist the evil forces that are camping in the Shepherds' territory. Bobbin again offers occasional help and advice. At the climax of the game, Bobbin, Bobbin's mother and Hetchel return to Earth along with the entire Guild of Weavers, and all of the other Guilds join for a final challenge to Chaos. Working together for the first time, their combined magic banishes Chaos back into the Void, and the healing of the world can begin. Rusty and Fleece get married, and Bobbin becomes the head of the Guild of Weavers.

Contrary to popular belief, the Loom sequels were not abandoned because Loom didn't sell well. Loom has sold more than half a million copies in various formats since it was published in 1990. The reason the sequels weren't made is because I decided I wanted to work on other things, and nobody else wanted to do them, either.

And compare it to what he said on the matter in this interview:

Moriarty

Loom wasn't actually written with a trilogy in mind. But after it was finished, there was vague interest in continuing the story. In discussing this possibility, I imagined two sequels. The first was tentatively called Forge. It tells the story of Bobbin's friend Rusty Nailbender, whose home city (the Forge of the Blacksmiths) was enslaved by Chaos near the end of Loom. Rusty becomes the leader of an underground movement to overthrow Chaos, together with Fleece Firmflanks of the Shepherds and new characters from the other Guilds. Bobbin appears every now and then as a ghostly swan dispensing mystical advice, an obvious nod to Obi-Wan Kanobi of Star Wars. The story climaxes in a terrible battle that nearly destroys the world.

The third game, The Fold, is about Fleece Firmflanks and her attempt to unite the shattered Guilds in a final, desperate effort to banish Chaos. Near the end of the game, when the cause appears hopeless, Bobbin and the Weavers swoop in like the proverbial cavalry to save the day. The Loom of the Weavers is remade, reality is healed, and peace is restored to the Guilds.

But this was all just talk. I was busy with other projects, and nobody else felt strongly enough about the games to make a commitment. So Forge and The Fold never got made.

There seems to be some disparity, whether deliberately or not, in Moriarty's comments about how far from "just talk" the sequels got. Additionally, other sources claim that it was indeed low sales of Loom that ended the possibility of a sequel in the eyes of LucasArts management. Whatever the reason for their abandonment, Forge or some other incarnation of a second Loom game apparently entered some form of early pre-production at LucasArts because designers Mike Stemmle and Sean Clark and Kalina Streicher have all been attributed to the production by themselves and other LEC employees of the time. Apparently the former two left the project when they went on to head Sam & Max Hit the Road.

The PC CD-ROM version of this game (released in 1992) was given a much-improved 256 color treatment complete with more sophisticated animations, and is one of the earliest LucasArts titles ever published with full voice acting. It is a common misconception that this was the first; however, this version of Loom was actually developed by Mindscape and not LucasArts, whose first foray into "talkie" was with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. The subsequent obliteration of Mindscape is the reason why this later version of the game, which was tied to a licensing agreement with the company, was the first to go out-of-print. Of course, all versions of the game are now near-impossible to find thanks to LucasArts' lack of support for their back catalog. If you'd care to see that policy change, why not send the company an e-mail and let them know you'd be in the market for re-releases of Loom and others?

While the voice acting in the 256 color PC-CD version is quite good, it comes at the expense of the original, lengthier dialogue and some beautiful character close-up images found in the original disk version. It is believed that the immature state of the lip-synching technology at the time is the reason the close-ups were forfeited (256 color versions of them actually remain hidden the game's data files, along with partially completed attempts at mouth animations in them). As for the truncated dialogue, it is believed by some that the reason was lack of disk space, while others claim that the shortened text was an intentional aesthetic decision made by Moriarty to "punch-up" the banter. Attributed to the dialogue rewrites are Jenny Sward, Sara Reeder and famous sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card. Whatever the reason for the changes, the two versions of the US release of Loom are different enough that they're both worth experiencing.

Furthermore, since all the music in the PC CD-ROM version of the game is in the form of background for the voiced bits, there is no ongoing background music. For all these reasons, the exceedingly rare FM-TOWNS version of the game is considered to be the best since it features a full digital soundtrack, 256 colors (though a different version of it than the PC CD-ROM) and all of the original dialogue despite lacking the voice acting. A version of the game with the complete original text, 256 color backgrounds, and voice acting was never released.

The modified/shortened dialogue in the talkie PC CD-ROM version notably has a lot of the humor extracted from it. Various one-liners from the floppy disk version of the game, such as "Can't say I didn't warn him," "You break it, you buy it," "The customer is always right" and "Here goes my new office furniture" are noticeably missing. Whether the resultant slight shift in tone was mere coincidence or a conscious effort, this version of Loom lacks even the slight light-heartedness (which some would argue was out place) present in the original releases.

In the source files for the talkie CD-ROM version of the game, you can find a collection of character close-ups from the floppy disk version of the game, as previously mentioned. In the close-up of Elder Atropos, some image manipulation reveals a hidden message on Atropos' face, apparently written by a disgruntled developer: "LOOM SUCKS!"

Academy Award-winning sound designer Randy Thom (of Ratatouille, Forrest Gump, etc) had some hand on the sound of the awesome Loom audio drama. (Thanks to Valkien for alerting us to this)

The "Skill Level" screen that is displayed upon booting Loom is the first example of a difficulty selection option in a LucasArts adventure game.

The animation of Bishop Mandible's decapitation with his head being hurled toward the screen was done by Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell.

In addition to having a heavily streamlined interface, there are no dialogue trees in Loom, the only LucasArts adventure made after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that this holds true for.

The manual for the floppy disk version of the game promised an "extra scene" for those who play the game in Expert skill level. Expecting this scene to occur at the very end of the game, many players who completed the game on Expert mode were left confused as to what the scene was. The scene is a brief animation displaying Cobb's fate upon removing Bobbin's robe for the player to see, an event which in the other difficulty modes occurs off-screen and is handled with dark humor. The PC CD-ROM version shows the same rendition of Cobb's demise in every skill level, in a scene that is effectively a combination of the two possible scenes from the original version.

The three Elders, Atropos, Clothos, and Lachesis, are named after the goddesses of fate in Greek mythology.

In The Secret of Monkey Island, after Guybrush smacks himself against a pole during the Fettuccini Brothers cannon test, one of the dialogue options is, "Hi, I'm Bobbin. Are you my mother?"

Also in The Secret of Monkey Island, Loom cast member Cobb makes an appearance in the SCUMM Bar, advertising the game.

The Loom seagull would go on to make "cameo" appearances in subsequent adventure games, such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's revenge. In the credits for those games is listed, "Seagull™ appears courtesy of LOOM™."

In LucasArts' 1997 adventure game The Curse of Monkey Island, the third game in the Monkey Island series, some fun is had at the expense of Loom. Poking fun at the game's relative obscurity, Guybrush Threepwood asks LeChuck, "Ever hear of Bobbin Threadbare?" when the latter asserts that he as a character will never become a has-been.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, developed concurrently with Loom, features a painting in the Castle Brunwald art room that the astute will recognize as the beach Bobbin lands on after leaving his home island in Loom.

It is not possible to reach a dead-end in this game unless you fail to write down drafts as you learn them. The inability to get stuck and the "easy" difficulty of the puzzles were rather innovative at the time, and set Loom apart from other graphic adventures of its time period.

All of the drafts that are optional to learn, and therefore possible for the player to accidentally pass up, are not necessary to complete the game. For example, the dragon can have the Terror draft woven on it to cause the straw to catch fire if the player neglected to learn the Sleeping draft. Similarly, Edgewise's blade near the end of the game can be ruined by the Twisting draft if you do not know the Sharpening draft to reverse. In ScummVM, in the debug console, you can use the "drafts" command to list all the drafts, their combination, as well as show whether you have already learned the draft or not. (Thanks to clone2727 for alerting us to this)

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In the floppy disk version, Bobbin takes the Book of Patterns with him when you interact with the object. (It doesn't do anything other than serve as an in-game counterpart to the physical packaged book.) In the PC CD-ROM version, Bobbin does not take the Book, saying that he already knows what's in it.

Downloads/Resources:

ATMachine's House of LucasArts and Sierra Oddities - He may consider Mojo to have fallen from its once noble graces, but the man still runs a petty mean incredibly-obscure-adventure-game-trivia site, including an incredibly detailed and interesting pages devoted to oddities about Loom.

Loom Island (Wayback Machine) – This old Loom fansite may be dead, but it was a great resource when it wasn't.

Loom Game Guide (Wayback Machine) An equally awesome (and equally dead) fansite for Loom, this one a detailed walkthrough for the game. Maybe it can all still be accessed!

Soundtrack Island – Featuring downloadable music from multiple versions of the game, including the Audio Drama in conveniently separated parts!

Ex-Mojoer Capel looks back at 1990

GAMES of 1990

  • Commander Keen. The first series of games from id Software, who would go on to create Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake. Introduced the Dopefish.
  • Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Made in the dark days when big-breasted women were used to sell games. Glad we've got past that stage!
  • Maniac Mansion. The US finally gets the censored NES version. The sound of a million exploding hamsters are heard, then suddenly silenced.
  • Prince of Persia. Not to be confused with Fresh Prince of Persia, starring Will Smith.

MOVIES of 1990

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A surprisingly adult film in places, and totally the greatest thing ever.
  • Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp get united for the first time, for what is arguably TB's best film.
  • Goodfellas. Yay, a decent gangster movie! Need one of those this year. See below.
  • Back to the Future Part III. Proving that the last movie in a trilogy isn't always the worst one.
  • The Godfather Part III. Not proving that the last movie in a trilogy isn't always the worst one.

NEWS of 1990

  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa is closed to the public due to safety concerns. "Quick, run from one side to the other real fast!"
  • The first McDonalds opens in Moscow. Cold War officially over.
  • The Royal New Zealand Navy discontinues its daily rum ration. "But why has the rum gone?!" can be heard all over the world.
  • Twelve paintings, collectively worth from $100 to $300 million, are stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston by thieves posing as policemen.
  • Microsoft releases Windows 3.0. Also, Pandora's Box is discovered lying open in Greece.

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