Business-like, isn't he?



Loom... the CD-ROM

by Alan Zisman (c) 1993. First published in Our Computer Player, June 18, 1993

LucasFilm Games
POBox 10307
San Rafael, CA 94912 USA

One of the things that makes or breaks a new medium like CD-ROM is
availability of software; why spend a couple of hundred bucks on a CD-
ROM player if there's nothing to run on it?

As a result, many people buy CD-ROM players sold as part of a
package-- buy the player, get a bunch of titles thrown in 'free'. As
another result, many software titles have been rushed to market.
Some are databases of interest only to a select few (the classic "
Cows" comes to mind).

Others are repackaged versions of pre-existing software. In some
cases, there's value added on in the CD-ROM versions. Corel Draw,
for example, includes a ton of extra fonts and clipart, filling the
650 megs or so found on a single disk.

CD-ROM disks, you see, can be a software company's dream medium...
it's far cheaper to manufacture, package, and distribute a CD-disk
in its plastic shell then a half dozen or more floppies (perhaps in
two disk sizes), a couple of paper manuals, a big cardboard box and
so forth.

And even better... think what it does to software piracy if you need
the CD disk to run the application. Even if someone does install the
application from the disk onto several computers, (which won't
happen as much because CD-ROM players are still much rarer than
floppy disk drives), they won't be able to use all the bells and
whistles without the disk. And it's easy to make it so the software
won't run without the disk anyway (shades of the bad old days of 'key disk' copy
protection), and by the time everyone has a CD-ROM player,
applications will probably need 600 megs to run and won't be
copyable anyway!

Still, to make this work, there's got to be some reason for computer
users to get the CD-ROM version instead of the floppy disk version.
Game manufacturers think they've got a take on this... games have
been getting bigger and bigger lately, as graphics and animated
sequences get increasingly sophisticated. Add a bunch of sound
effects, and... well, just as an example, Sierra's recent King's
Quest games each take up more hard drive space than Windows 3.1! And
even 20 megs of drive space, is not enough room  for what the game
designers really want to do.

So it's CD-ROM to the rescue! This way, you've got room for a real
sound track, and you can have actors reading lines, not static
cartoon-like voice balloons. Even if you don't have a sound card,
most computer CD-ROM players have audio headphone and speaker
outputs, and can play stereo-quality sound. You're going to need a
CD-sized device to really include sound... even at the inferior
sound quality produced by sampling sound at 11 khz, using 8-bit
samples takes about 0.66 megs of space per minute. The 44 khz, 16-
bit CD-quality sound takes up 8 times the space. At that rate, an
hour's sound would take 300 meg or so.

LOOM from LucasFilm (yes, the movie studio famous for Indiana Jones)
is one example of the trend of reissuing games on CD-ROM, with some

Originally issued in 1990 on 6 360k floppies, Loom took up about 4
megs of hard drive space. It's an interesting concept... a GENTLE
fantasy game, in a field filled with blood and gore and big breasts.
The original version came with an audio tape to fill you in on the

You're Bobbin Threadbare, a young man alive in the age of the Great
Guilds. The Weavers Guild lives by themselves on an island, where
they weave magical patterns, 'drafts' out of a combination of
thread and music. But the world of the Guilds is threatened, and you
may hold the key to its salvation.

But the threat is not monsters or alien attack, and in this game,
you cannot die... but as you go along, you will learn to become more
proficient in weaving spells. Curiosity is always rewarded.

The game looks the same in the CD-ROM version, but the audio tape
has been replaced by an animated movie. And the thin beeping of the
PC-speaker has been replaced with a high-quality audio score played
by the CD-ROM player.

And the characters talk. You can choose whether to have their word echoed on
screen or simply to rely on the voices. This adds to the game's
movie-like quality. Unfortunately, the low-resolution VGA detracts
from this at times. In order to have 256 colours on any VGA card,
the program runs in 320x200 pixel mode... this means that some of
the smaller figures become quite blocky, but this is only a minor
distraction. The game looks its age, when compared to some of the
newer games, such as the last two Kings Quest games, where Sierra
worked on computerized animations based on real actors for some

It is simple to get started playing... just clicking the mouse gets most things

It's easier to say what this game ISN'T than what it is... it has
few counterparts in the computer gaming field. Some might object to
a game that isn't a traditional adventure, where you can't die,
where there's no fighting, and no sexual tease. How can it be any

Despite this, (or perhaps because of this), Loom is engaging in a
low key kind of way. The predominantly blue shades used throughout
add to a quiet, almost moody feel. It reminds me most of the fantasy
novels making up the Earthsea series, by well known author Ursula
LeGuin, with a warm sense of hearth and home, even if things are
starting to fall apart, and the wizards are a bit, well, eccentric.

Response time playing directly from the CD-ROM disk was acceptable,
except when I tried to play from Windows... here it was too slow. It
can be speeded up by copying 4 megs of files to your hard drive, but
even if started on your hard drive, this version won't work unless the CD-ROM
disk is in your player.

The game has been improved by the transition to CD-ROM. If you like
the fantasy genre of novels or computer games, but have gotten weary
of worlds of monsters and bloodshed, take a look at Lucasfilm's Loom.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1993, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from Loom fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan