Zork: Stuck   10 comments

(Heavier spoilers than usual this post.)

First, a mea culpa: you do get a faint blue glow when the thief is nearby, but only in the original Muddle version and not in the ZDungeon port. It’s actually even more effective than the sword suddenly turning on: it happens more frequently, and it makes for more moments of teeth-gnashing.

Paul O’Brian writes that “Dungeon wants nothing more than to see you fail” and I’m feeling the burn. I’ve developed a system over the years to give myself the best chance of solving adventure games; unfortunately my rate of hintless wins has not improved much. The only games I’d call “substantial” I beat with no hints at all were Countdown to Doom (1982) and Anchorhead (1998). Other than the “Beginner” level Wishbringer (1985) I haven’t beaten any Infocom game without hints.

Still I find my system helpful, so I’m plowing ahead. First I list all my open puzzles:

Locked trapdoor
Locked grating
Bank of Zork
Round Room
Entrance to Hades
Circular Room mysterious message:

   o  b  o
   A  G  I
    E   L
   m  p  a

Getting out of Aragain Falls with treasure intact
Getting coffin out of Egyptian Room area
Passage full of ice
Handling light source at narrow passage near coal mine

Then I list all my objects I have access to:

coil of rope
nasty-looking knife
elvish sword
jewel-encrusted egg
brown sack
old leather bag, bulging with coins
set of skeleton keys
deceased adventurer’s useless lantern
rusty knife
small brass bell
burning candles
pearl necklace
bucket (can’t carry)
solid-gold coffin
coil of thin shiny wire
toothpaste tube (Frobozz magic gunk)
sharp stick
folded plastic / pump -> boat
trunk with jewels
crystal trident
jade figure
bat guano

Then I sit and compare the two lists and a map until something pops in my head. For instance, on one previous list-comparison check I realized I’d used the boat on only one body of water but the map had more I could try. My current list of things to try:

try shovel everywhere
burning timber didn’t work; try burning other things that can remain lit while on the floor to get an extra light source near the narrow passage
try alternate exit from area after the narrow passage instead
mess around with bell / candles / books at Hades some more (bell does have some effect)
try ‘odysseus’ or ‘hello, sailor’ more places

This works best if there’s a puzzle where all the systems are clear and it is just a matter of fitting the pieces together (like the troll bridge puzzle from Adventure) and worst when there’s some sort of in-game experimentation required (like not realizing an item is magic — that trident looks suspicious — and there’s no clue except for in-game manipulation).

Sometimes I’ll miss the existence of items; for instance the fact the “grail room” had an actual Grail object that could be picked up strangely eluded me for some time.

Absolute worst is when I miss a map exit exists. This can happen to me even on good, sensibly mappable games (I missed going up from the kitchen in Savoir Faire for something like an hour). One of my standing stuck procedures is to double check every room on the map and try every single direction — even if the room description insists there’s only one way out — just in case.

Anyone have their own method?

Posted April 6, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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10 responses to “Zork: Stuck

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  1. You’ve missed at least one mapping direction that I can see. If you want a hint, feel free to ask.

  2. I highly doubt anyone could solve Dungeon _without_ hints. It’s just impossible. There are several puzzles that require knowledge not found in the game…at least as far as I know. I know some puzzles _just because I know them_ and I learned their solutions from other people.

  3. One more comment. I’ve never seen Dungeon as a game you finish in a few days. This game took me and several other people months to solve. It’s probably memorable for that reason. So you may want to decide not to accept any hints and just ponder all of the stuff over and over (like I did 31 years ago).

  4. Progress report:
    I figured out the Circular Room message, woot. Not sure what to do with it though. (It’s the middle portion of a text where the left and right parts are rubbed out. Once you figure out what the first word has to be the rest comes easily.)

    Trying >hello, sailor in the living room:

    > hello, sailor

    Atom REP has neither LVAL nor GVAL

  5. Pingback: Zork: Playing off and on the computer « Renga in Blue

  6. Hmm… I’ll have to check on why the Inform port doesn’t have the sword glow if the Thief is nearby. Besides Confusion (which I think is *great*), I also have an account on a 36-bit machine so I can do some side-by-side testing. My suspicions are that there are known differences with list processing between Inform and MDL, in particular, push-down order vs iterative order – I fixed a bug long ago where my Thief went around the rooms backwards because of it. The code for detecting “in the room next to” is probably dependent on some MDL understanding of list proximity…

  7. I think I must know many of the solutions, but when I played for the first time I must have looked them up. I mean, how is one supposed to solve the bank without looking it up or by sheer dumb luck? It must have stuck with me because I got through it.

    There’s still stuff I haven’t done though: the well area, the coal mine, and the glacier segment remain to be done, as does the Royal Puzzle.

    It’s also funny that the thief moves stuff around, for instance in my game he moved the Flood Control Dam tour guidebooks to the Grail Room. Somewhat incongruous to find them lying there. Although I did kill him.

  8. Pingback: Forbidden City: Stuck | Renga in Blue

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