Monday, 21 March 2011

FIST: The Ressurection

At some time in the mid 80's at the height of the Fighting Fantasy 'craze' by simply dialling 0898 800 876 on a standard telephone, innocent people were connected to an interactive audio based adventure game where they were bled dry of all their cash. This was acronymously known as FIST: Fantasy Interactive Scenarios by Telephone. And it began like this:
The number you have dialled is not of this earth. You have opened the gateway to an alternate reality. You are being connected to another world in another time, where you are another person. Welcome to the world of FIST!
Yes. That orc is holding a GPO telephone handset.
If I recall correctly, it wasn't just a simple narrator, reading from Citadel of Chaos in a nasally monotone as one might expect, but a full cast of voice actors, atmospheric sound effects and occasional music, more like a radio play than a traditional audio-book. Alas, if you dial the FIST number now, all you get is the BT woman saying 'this number has not been recognised, please hang up and try again'. Hardly very exciting is it?

The game itself was very much a Fighting Fantasy style affair, dial 1 to fight the goblin, dial 2 to give the goblin a sandwich. Of course the whole point of the thing was to keep you on the phone for as long as possible, so Compudial could rake in the cash at 25p a minute. Of course, that was prohibitively expensive (a Citadel miniature was about 60p at the time) so I never played more than once or twice. But after you'd got past the obligatory intro speech, that meant the game itself had to be somewhat intriguing to keep you on the line for as long as possible.

So with the Gamebook Renaissance officially in full swing, what with DS version of Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Fighting Fantasy iPhone apps, PSP, Destiny Quest, Fabled Lands iPhone + Books. What is it going to take to get FIST resurrected?

To fight the John Blanche Balrog, press 1
To badly edited the artwork for an american advert.
press 2.
To reuse the artwork in Warhammer 3rd edtion, press 3

I'm sure with a pair of headphones, an iPhone-droid thingy with a touch-screen keypad, or even a pc, this could be a really cool game. By virtue of being chiefly audio rather than visual, really quite unique proposition in this space. In fact it could probably be easily ported to all manner of consumer electronic devices. If the old recordings don't exist in a collection of c90 cassette tapes in the bottom of Steve Jacksons sock drawer, surely they must be somewhere?  With a little technical effort and a bit of a marketing push, surely Steve Jackson could afford to by another villa in Spain? Or, to put it another way, all the hard work has been done, it's an asset waiting to be repackaged and sold on iTunes for £1.99.

A C90 Cassette Tape- could something like this hold the key?

While poking around the internets trying to dig up some FIST infos I came across a rather neat little application A Dark and Deadly Path  (works on win 98, probably other things too) which has a very simple, rather twee and surreal audio demo game "a comet hits your house and you die!", which gives some of the flavour of what's possible with audio game books. As it was written with accessibility (ie. gaming for the non-sighted in mind) it has a nice warm glow of inclusiveness about it, it works with a single mp3 file and a smple XML file format of time codings.

Anyway, let's get FIST! back up and running.

Update: 2013.

1991: Fist III: The Slaughter House
mjr_blayne over at has unearthed this 1991 advert from Zero magazine (a console / computergaming mag). I'd never heard of it, and it sounds like they put a lot of work into streamlining the system. Great looking ad, hmm, maybe needs more blood, ok, more blood.


  1. We did try this once but only at a mate's house on the grounds that his Dad was stinkingly rich and we assumed he could afford the phone bill. Never really appreciated it much since it was a case of listen for 15 seconds before somebody else grabs the phone for his 15 seconds of listening.

    I remember the interview with SJ in GM Magazine and even then he was admitting that the principle needed much cheaper call rates before it would be truly practical.

    BTW - That's a C15, not a C90. :)

  2. It has already been resurrected!

  3. @DrBargle: What on earth is that ridiculous scottish man doing? Is this for real? That's why I don't have cable TV, I could watch that all day like a drugged onion. It's like Knightmare only worse, much worse.

    @Coopdevil. Well observed! a ZX spectrum would need a RAM pack the size of a breeze block if single games came on single C90.

  4. No, it's not for real - but if it was it'd be a welcome replacement for the Quiz Calls that pop up on commercial TV after midnight (Q: what does a woman carry in her handbag, A: Rawlplugs - that was a genuine question that fleeced plenty of premium line telephone callers).

  5. Oh great article. I must to use it for my AlbionBlog.
    Thanks for this lesson Zhu.