Sierra pioneered online multiplare gaming with their "The Sierra Network" (TSN) which later became the ImagiNation Network (INN). It also created an online community. There have been attempts to recreate INN, mostly through reverse engineering and use of DOSBox. One project, Faux INN is no longer active. Another project, ImagiNation Network Revival is mostly functional, though it sees little traffic these days. Setting up ImagiNation Network Revival was a little complicated for some. It involved editing config files and setting it up to run in DOSBox.
I have created an SHP installer that will automatically setup ImagiNation Network Revival. As with the all SHP
Sierra game DOSBox installers, it can also download and install DOSBox for you. No manual configuration is needed. Just run the installer and setup your INN
user profile when the program launches. If you wish to see what INN was like, download the
SHP ImagiNation Network Revival installer and explore the Sierra worlds of the ImagiNation Network.
ImagiNation Network Revival Installer (EXE File) [9.88 MB]
(recorded from a real MT-32)
"The ImagiNation Network (INN), aka The Sierra Network (TSN), was the first online multiplayer gaming system. Developed by Sierra On-Line in 1989, and first available to the public in 1991, the ImagiNation Network was a unique online gaming network that gave subscribers from all over the United States of America a place where they could "play games, make friends and have fun". With a wide variety of games including RPGs, WWI aeroplane simulations, live trivia, and card and board games, almost every user could find something enjoyable to play. INN also featured an electronic post office, many bulletin boards, chat rooms, and the company boasted of having "more than 200 groups, clubs and special events online."
"Sierra On-Line founder Ken Williams wanted to create a network that even his grandmother would find easy to use, and to that end INN featured a unique emphasis on a friendly, graphics-heavy interface. Each user was represented by a persona which they assembled using INN's built-in 'facemaker'. The facemaker was incredibly detailed, with enough different options to construct over 84 million unique personas. Users could then indicate their level of skill in various games, in order to encourage fair match-making between players, and a short list of hobbies to help match interests with new friends."
And INN was eventually sold off:
"While TSN achieved over 30,000 paid customers, unfortunately, it was not profitable for Sierra On-Line, losing millions of dollars a year. Most of the loss was attributed to high bandwidth needs for some of the real-time games, and the inexpensive subscription model. In 1994, AT&T purchased a half-interest in TSN for 50 million dollars. Under AT&T's direction the network's name was changed to the ImagiNation Network, hourly rates were increased, and several elements of the network considered 'too risqué' were removed entirely. A year later, AT&T bought the remaining half of the network for an additional 50 million dollars, making Sierra On-Line one of the few companies at the time to have made money from online gaming.
"AT&T continued to make enhancements to the service until August 6, 1996, when INN was acquired by America On-Line for 15 million dollars. AOL shut down the ImagiNation Network early in 1998, ending seven years of operation."
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