Amanda Goodenough, a self-professed ‘techno-wimp’, was able to use HyperCard to create a series of interactive children’s stories that delighted children and opened the eyes of artists and designers.
The stories featured the adventures of a cat named Inigo,
beginning with ‘Inigo Gets Out’ in 1987.
Inigo is nothing but a purring swarm of pixels made with short bursts from
HyperCard’s air brush tool — expressive and elegant.
The world Inigo explores is just as minimalist, and just as delightful.
Inigo Gets Out © Amanda Goodenough
At the time, a journalist (Fred Stauder, HyperChat Editor, Mactech. Source article) described how Inigo taught him about simplicity: “When I first saw ‘Inigo Gets Out’, in the very early HyperCard days, I thought this was done by some kid, and it didn’t have any cool scripts or buttons... One day I saw people playing ‘Inigo Gets Out’; I watched the people. They knew intuitively where to click. Even very small children saying things like ‘click on the tree.’ Before long we were all involved in Inigo’s adventures, totally forgetting about the Mac.”
Faced with HyperCard’s blank screen, some people immediately imagined scenes. The environment’s integrated graphic tools (HyperCard had most of MacPaint’s tools built right in, and that made painting fun. This included the ability to quickly toggle into ‘FatBits’ mode, zooming to about 800%, to make artwork pixel perfect. Google MacPaint gallery and you will find there is still enthusiasm for MacPaint.) made it a snap to paint in broad strokes and draw in detail. Button tools, as straightforward as MacPaint, made it easy to link screens. Amanda Goodenough simply did what came naturally to her, and was suddenly creating worlds.
Others also discovered HyperCard’s inherent world-building potential.
Inspired to make an interactive children’s book, Rand and Robyn Miller dived into
HyperCard and came out with ‘The Manhole’ in 1987.
‘The Manhole’ is a surrealistic adventure down a manhole, rather than through a looking glass. Like Inigo’s world, the art has been created entirely with HyperCard’s paint tools. A magic beanstalk grows from the Manhole: Go further down into the manhole:
This is a small slide show of scenes from ‘The Manhole’. A close up hilights a keyboard built into a desk which the user could play a tune on. HyperCard made it simple to create a basic keyboard; the HyperTalk script language included some musical notation. Sound is a huge part of what makes Cyan’s worlds immersive, but for now this is a silent black and white article. Perhaps in a later upgrade we will be able to use Flash to deliver full samples that look, sound and even feel the same as the original. The Manhole © 1987 Cyan Worlds
Rand Miller explained (This quotes is from Cyan is HyperSuccessful, one of a small collection of articles and interviews at HyperCard Heaven.) “There wasn’t a lot of high-quality stuff for kids out there at the time and I thought HyperCard was a perfect vehicle to provide it.” Rand enlisted his multitalented younger brother, Robyn, who launched HyperCard and never looked back.
‘The Manhole’ included over 600 connected screens and required a small collection of floppy disks, so the Millers also made a teaser version called ‘The Fire Hydrant’ which fit on a single floppy. Soon they attracted a publisher, Activision, formed the company Cyan, and assembled even more talent.
Cyan created two more black and white masterpieces.‘Cosmic Osmo’ was
released in 1990 and ‘Spelunx’ a year later.
The surreal adventures continued in 1990 in ‘Cosmic Osmo’ — bigger, better, and just as black and white as its precursor. An expanded version, ‘Cosmic Osmo and the Worlds Beyond the Mackerel’, was released on CD-ROM. The extended version included new worlds to be found with a space ship. In this scene we are inexplicably firing cotton swabs, at a planet that is a giant mackerel. We would have been flattered to take this as a shot across our bow, but we doubt that the Millers saw our early stacks. We had the fish fixation since art school days, so this could only be a coincidence. The coincidence deepened when ‘Cosmic Osmo’ and ‘The Mackerel Stack’ shared two awards in the 1991 MacWorld SuperStacks competition.
Cosmic Osmo and the Worlds Beyond the Mackerel © 1990 Cyan Worlds
Here is a page about Spelunx maintained by Richard Watson at Cyan. The pictures are from a colorized version released a few years later, but it’s not hard to imagine what the orginal looks like.
The world-building continued, of course. The Millers stuck with HyperCard to create the phenomenal ‘Myst’,
however, they used plug-ins that allowed 256 colours per scene.
And that’s a different story: Even after Star Trek’s Holodeck set public expectations for virtual reality ridiculously high, the immersive quality of ‘Myst’ surprised almost everyone who tried it. ‘Myst’ continues with sequels, remakes, and online worlds.