"Welcome to the Age of Great Guilds
This is the message that greets you upon successful entry of the copy protection codes into the 1990 LucasArts SCUMM adventure game Loom, a perfect introduction to the strange world you are about to explore.
The story of loom is simple enough and, because to discuss the particulars of an adventure game is to spoil the fun of it, this writeup shall keep such discussion to a bare minimum. In this game you play the role of Bobbin Threadbare, a young member of the Weaver's Guild of mysterious origins. You stumble upon several elder weavers discussing what seems to be you in front of the holy loom of fate before turning into swans and flying through a tear in the weave. Thus begins your adventure through which you will, almost needless to say, save the world and discover your origin.
The adventure of Bobbin Threadbare is, essentially, a vehicle to show off the marvelous world of the Great Guilds. Each new location you find your way to through the course of the stories is colored by the character of the Guild that rules over it. The glassblower's city is made entirely of glass, including a graveyard filled with transparent tombstones. The shepherds look over a land of endlessly rolling green hills tufted with white sheep and spotted with simple wooden cottages wherein the shepherds live their simple lives. Your own people live in tents made from their own well-made textiles and record their history on magnificent tapestries and surrounded with dark woods and ocean that speak to the mysterious nature of the weavers (it is a well known fact that no one has looked beneath the hood of a weaver and lived to tell the tale). The world is simple and iconic, a simplicity that serves to make the 16 color world with pc speaker sounds incredibly immersive.
In a profound departure from the adventure game tradition, a factor that further helps immersion in the world, Loom has no inventory, nor does it have a set of buttons at the bottom of the screen representing ways to interact with objects such as Push, Pull, Get, and Talk To. Instead, Bobbin interacts with the world through Drafts. Towards the beginning of the game, Bobbin picks up a distaff - a simple wooden staff that allows him to play certain four note combinations, called drafts that change the world in the manner of magic spells.
You learn drafts by looking at certain objects in the world, things that represent processes. The draft is a distillation of the essence of that action and allows you apply that action to the world. You don't keep a list of drafts, nor are you ever told explicity what a given draft is - you learn it entirely from context. You simple know that the four notes you learn when you look at the pot of green dye is the draft to make things green.
As if this weren't enough, you don't learn all of your drafts by looking at objects. Instead, you can reverse the order most of the drafts you learn and thus perform the reverse of whatever action the original draft performed. For example, if the note combination c c c d were the draft for dying things green, the combination d c c c would serve to remove the color from an object. Almost all drafts can be reversed in this manner and those that don't are evident, for they are palindromes, drafts that can be read the same forwards and backwards; to reverse it is to produce the same sequence of notes. Half the fun of the game is finding out what the drafts you learn do and realizing just how broad the effects of your drafts can be.
This game was a marvel of the adventure game genre and its magical quality has never quite been replicated. Loom remains, even more than a decade old as it is, a landmark in the tradition of the sadly-dying genre of the adventure game.