External Links

Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
sound effects, which probably won't work under your interpreter
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
moments.zip *
Contains moments.zblorb
Original game including music and sounds, bundled together in zblorb format (via Internet Archive from author's download site)
Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
moments.zip *
Contains moments.zblorb
Original game including music and sounds, bundled together in zblorb format (IF Archive mirror)
Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
* Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.

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Moments Out of Time

by L. Ross Raszewski

Episode 1 of Moments Out of Time
Time Travel

(based on 13 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

"Note: requires a Z6-capable interpreter, preferably with Blorb sound support." [--blurb from Competition Aught-One]

Game Details


2nd Place - 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2001)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

A poking-and-searching game about historical research via time travel. You have a limited time to explore an ordinary home in the days just before a major war turns nuclear. Your main objective is revelatory documents, not so much about the political situation, which is well-known, but about how people lived. After your return, you are quizzed on your findings and evaluated. Loads of backstory, often given through large infodumps. Good degree of detail in the environment, with the aim of giving a sense of the absent characters. Decent prose, but no particular dramatic structure - the story is part of the setting, rather than vice versa. Many, many locked doors and hidden keys. One optional puzzle is rendered unsolvable by a bug, but I notied no bugs beyond that.

Exploration is aided by a variety of gadgets, including an automapper and a hint dispenser, but you can only bring a few of them with you in a given session. Which tools you choose to bring will affect what parts of the game you can see, and it'll probably take you multiple sessions with different loadouts to get a satisfactoy picture of the family. It's possible to get a favorable evaluation at the end with most loadouts, but some tools make it a lot easier. (Perfectionists take note: A perfect mission is impossible. Even the author says he's never gotten a mission evaluation above 93% or so.)

Features an ambitious extension of the user interface, adding an elaborate system of nested menus to the bottom of the screen. This does not work properly on some interpreters, and can be disabled without affecting gameplay through the command "MENU OFF". I personally liked the "compass" option, which turns the menu into a list of exits, but didn't use it for anything else.

-- Carl Muckenhoupt


The writing is good throughout the game, but the best-written parts are in the first person and take the voices of the characters; call me easily persuaded, but I was convinced. I found no false notes in the voices of the characters when they set their own thoughts down on paper -- some unappealing aspects, maybe, but very much true to life.

That itís difficult to give a story/exploration-based game any sort of pace or direction is not news, of course, and I donít blame Moments for resorting to puzzles to achieve some sort of structure, keep the game from becoming a big lump of facts.
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

[T]here are the bones of an amazing game here. The plot revolves around a future time-travel agency, and the world-building evident in the details of this is just wonderful. Also, some of the things that make it inappropriate for the competition don't necessarily make it a bad game. Quite the contrary, in fact -- the number of options available makes for an incredibly rich gameworld...

All in all, a very worthy effort, but I wish it wasn't a competition game. Releasing this game outside the competition would have accrued several benefits. It would have allowed more time to fix those nasty details of implementation and documentation. Players could have approached it as something they could spend a significant amount of time on, rather than having to rush through it to see as much as possible while not giving short shrift to the other 51 games awaiting their attention. And it wouldn't have been presented for formal judging in a not-completely-functional state. Would have, would have, would have. If only real time travel were possible.

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Have Stream, Will Travel
One of your goals, I suppose, is to get a high score on your evaluation at the end of the game. And if you asked the PC about his motives, he say that's his main goal. From the player's point of view, though, replaying the game wouldn't be much fun if boosting your score were the only objective. In my case, what drove me to play the game again and again was the challenge of piecing together the game's fragmentary story, using multiple sets of tools during multiple playthroughs, until, gradually, the bits of the story began to come together.

What's especially compelling, though, is that these two goals are synergistic. Whether you're playing to gain knowledge or just to get a high score, you'll surely end up getting both. This makes the game all the more rewarding. For this and other reasons, if you're looking for a game with a lot of replay value, this is it.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A replay-often time travel game with customizable inventory, February 3, 2016

I played this game because Adam Cadre cited it as one of his favorite games ever. You play as a time traveller who is investigating an old house.

Due to time travel limitations, you can only bring a limited amount of items with you. However, you need pretty much all of the items at one time or another to see the whole story. Thus, you have to replay it over and over to see more and more.

There's no real one big goal. It's a lot of fun to slowly unravel the story, though.

This game used some fancy window techniques, which didn't work for my game. So I just played without them.

I was discovering big, shocking things even on the fourth or fifth play through.

Excellent game.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
My Apartment... IN TIME!, May 1, 2024

OK, technically it's a house, not an apartment, but Moments Out of Time is one of the most interesting "my apartment" games that I've encountered. You play an AFGNCAAP "StreamDiver," someone authorized to conduct research into the the past via time travel. As the game begins, you are preparing for your "dive," which will be to a typical suburban home in the not-too-distant future from our player perspective, in order to collect what data you can about the inhabitants and their lives. The opening does a very good job of selling the setting, orienting the player to the goal, and instilling some urgency in both the short and long terms.

The prose is above average. The PC's clinical, semi-academic perspective on objects in the house serves both as exposition about the world of the far future and as commentary on modern life. The clinical tone does an excellent job of making the player feel both somewhat alien and at home at the same time, and its punctuation by occasional restrained eagerness characterizes the PC in a way that promotes player identification with the role. The technique creates an excellent pacing for the exposition, moving naturally in tandem with the player's own curiosity.

The high-level design of the setting is very well-conceived, and it creates many fortuitous excuses for the constrained gameplay. Causal contamination is a paramount concern for StreamDivers, but since the study site is about to be destroyed in a war, worries about such minor issues as the location of objects in what will soon be a pile of scorched rubble are alleviated. The greater fear is contact with inhabitants of the local time, which justifies limiting your interaction with the past to the house itself -- even looking out windows is off-limits, on the off chance that you are seen. NPCs are almost nonexistent, and the one conversation featured in the game is a no-nonsense debriefing of your mission that lends itself well to the clipped, keyword-driven responses that will be required of the PC.

Although the environment is mostly static, there are some dynamic elements that add interest over the course of the 12-hour study period being allowed. There is a good chance that when (Spoiler - click to show)a nearby explosion seals off an area or (Spoiler - click to show)a looter shows up and makes off with various items you will find yourself unexpectedly locked out of a portion of the residence, inhibiting your exploration and sealing off some details needed to get a full picture of what's going on. Although we, as players, are of course able to restart the game whenever we like, in-universe this will be the only chance to visit the site for the protagonist, who is constantly aware of the dwindling time remaining -- a limit enforced both by the fictional technology and an impending nuclear attack.

The mid-level design is also excellent. The techno-gadgets that the PC is allowed to bring along are interesting and well-implemented. The fact that only some of these toys can be taken with you into the past is a very artificial constraint that, as other reviewers have noted, serves primarily to enforce the need to replay the game in order to get a complete understanding of the situation being studied. (My advice is to bring the (Spoiler - click to show)autokey and the scan chip along on a first attempt.) The fact that the "rule of thumb" scoring system applied by the PC as the game progresses only loosely correlates to the "official" score based on the PC's performance in the final interview is clever, and neither is particularly well-correlated to the subjective satisfaction level obtained by the player. It does not seem possible to score the implied maximum of any of these in a single playthrough.

The low-level design suffers from numerous flaws. Object implementation is not as rich as it could be, and certainly sparer than expected given the apparent level of craft put into higher levels of design. In certain places, objects in rooms are not mentioned in the description; I found out about them only through console functions or unexpected disambiguation prompts. In many cases, specific verbs are required for interaction in a manner that I frequently found non-intuitive. Although it's true that the story provides a justification for everything to be well-secured (the house having recently been evacuated), the number of locked doors still seemed excessive, and the "treasure hunt" aspect of finding keys was (to me) unrewarding. The number of encrypted messages encountered, while partially justified by the associated character's personality, also seems artificially large; most teenagers would simply not write down anything they were so worried about someone else knowing. There also seem to be lingering significant bugs -- for example, I found that I could not (Spoiler - click to show)get access to one of the computers without the interface chip, even though the game supposedly lets you discover the password.

As another reviewer notes, the level of drama exhibited by the family under study is surprisingly high, with a convincing "reality TV" feel to the glimpses given. Willing suspension of disbelief is strained in places by the over-exuberant deployment of certain tropes (e.g. (Spoiler - click to show)boy genius inventor). My interest sharply peaked after encountering (Spoiler - click to show)evidence of another time traveler who potentially originates in an alternate future than yours, but (Spoiler - click to show)this seems to have been only a red herring (or possibly setup for the sequel, which I have not played). The rest of the story (Spoiler - click to show)ultimately doesn't amount to very much other than titillating teen drama.

Jeremy Douglass wrote in "Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media": "[T]he preemptive understanding of interactive works imparted by criticism is almost unavoidably destructive, both in the aesthetic sense and in the way it excises the experiences of ambiguity, exploration, and frustration. Where works are constituted by what the player does not yet know, as with mystery and suspense, this prevents the work." I have used extra spoiler tags in this review for just that reason; the whole point of this work is the experience of exploration. This game is one of the best I have seen at shaping the "ambiguity, exploration and frustration" that will constitute the player experience in an intuitive but subconscious way, via selection of mutually-exclusive tools to be taken along on the dive. By trusting your gut in choosing the loadout the first time, you automatically customize the play experience to minimize the kinds of interactions you don't like while leaving a level of challenge that you will find acceptable. This is the most brilliant part of the design, and my hat is off to author L. Ross Raszewski here.

The work makes use of limited multimedia in the form of sound and music. For the most part, the sound effects detract more than they enhance, and the only instance of music (played at the start of the game) seems to be a cover of the theme from (Spoiler - click to show)Terminator 2; hearing it is not essential.

While this work earned a very close second place in the 2001 IF Comp (removal of the single lowest-scoring vote would have changed history) and received more 10s from players than any other score for the first time in comp history (per the research of Greg Boettcher in "IF-Review" -- see above), it was completely ignored during the 2001 XYZZY Awards. How can this be reconciled? Personally, I would say that it's because, while many aspects of this game are very good, none of them are the best. (For example, it becomes clear at some point that in the future, humanity (Spoiler - click to show)is part of an interstellar civilization along with many races of aliens. If this were the case, one would expect the cultural impact to be of a magnitude that would manifest as more than footnotes and encyclopedia entries; the better writing choice would have been to excise this extraneous distraction.)

This work is highly recommendable as a player experience, and worth studying for its strengths and weaknesses by would-be authors. The three star rating means "good, not great" in my book, but it had the potential to score much higher. As a special note to anyone preparing to play: This game uses the Z6 format, which is the least well-supported of the Infocom formats. For the complete author-intended experience, you will need a sound-capable interpreter. At the time of this writing, Frotz is the best choice (though you may have to build the sfrotz executable yourself), but it is still playable using Gargoyle, and the experience using that interpreter should be improved in post-2023 releases based on a recent bug fix. Although I did not test it under WinFrotz, I would expect that interpreter to do a fine job, based on past experience with its excellent standards compliance. Use of one of the zblorb files available for download will avoid the need to put z6 and blb files in the same location in order to get sound.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
~1600 words on Moments Out of Time, October 21, 2015
by Adam Cadre (El Cerrito, California)

I kept up with interactive fiction up until the end of 2001, then played virtually none for the next fourteen years. This may be my favorite IF piece from before that hiatus. More here: http://adamcadre.ac/calendar/15/15232.html

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Moments Out of Time on IFDB

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