Archive for January 2016

Secret Mission (1979)   2 comments

Scott Adams has previously been featured here with Adventureland and Pirate Adventure. Both games feature the virtue of feeling compact (by necessity for packing into a TRS-80) and hence the next in the series makes a good counterpoint to the gigantic sprawl of Warp.

Scott Adams allegedly tried to get a license from shamelessly rips off the TV series Mission: Impossible for this game, with an opening reference to “Mr. Phelps” (the main character for most seasons of the series) and a introductory recording which self-destructs. [ADD: Jimmy Maher makes an interesting comment about this.]

Picture via Ebay.

Picture via Ebay. The “IMF” on the cover stands for “Impossible Missions Force”, another reference to the TV show.

Unlike some “what is the objective, even?” games I’ve played lately, this one starts with energy:

Someone came in the room, he saw me and ran out!
WHAT SHALL I DO? play recorder
Good morning Mr. Phelps. Your Mission (should you decide to accept it) is to prevent this automated nuclear reactor from being destroyed by a saboteur’s TIME BOMB! The saboteur (who also rewired the security system) is a heart patient. He plans to SUICIDE with the reactor! He is still loosein the building. You’ll find Security keys & a map in the manila envelope lying next to the tape player.
WHAT SHALL I DO? inventory
I’m carrying: Surgically implanted bomb detector glows green (bomb’s -safe-)

In what might be the first “narrative twist” of interactive fiction, there is no envelope. I like how this uses the world and player participation to convey the twist rather than highlighting the fact in text as a traditional narrative would need to.

Unfortunately, I’m stuck pretty early. There’s someone who keeps running in the room, seeing me, and running out. There’s also three doors with cameras where

Metallic voice says: ‘Show authorization please’

and all I’ve got is an empty pail. I tried covering the camera with the pail but no dice. Perhaps I’m supposed to set up a trap for the running person but I can’t even think of how I’d do that with a pail in real life, let alone a two word parser.

I went old-school this time with the map.

I went old-school this time with the map.

Posted January 12, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: Supermassive   Leave a comment

This is only a fraction of the overall map.


(3 out of 49 treasures found, no idea where to stash them!)

There’s a lot of sameness to the rooms to enough an extent I normally associate with MUDs, not single player games.

Easy Street.
You’re in the middle of a long north-south street. To the west you can see the ocean in the distance, and to the east you can see a large building.

Easy Street.
You’re in the middle of a long north-south street. The ocean is in the distance to the west, and a large building can be seen to the east.

Wall Street.
You’re in the middle of a long street, extending primarily to the north and south, but also at this point there is a side street going to the east. The ocean is in the distance to the west.

West Bridge.
This is the famous West Bridge of Warp, known primarily for no reason at all other than the fact that Warp needed a bridge and this was a convenient place to put one. The road extends to the north and south, and there is a river below running east-west.

Easy Street.
You’re at a point where a north-south street meets an east-west street. To the south you can see what looks like a large park.

In a MUD, there needs to be some space so not everyone is crowded in small spaces, and even the most neutral of rooms can build up character if events occur in them throughout inter-character interaction (Battle of the West Bridge, say). Unfortunately, Warp is a single player game. The currently roaming NPCs just aren’t that impressive yet (I keep getting followed by a mugger with “A sordid individual is following you.” being displayed, which is far less interesting than anything in Adventure or Zork.)

I did manage to solve one puzzle (getting into the Warp Building by wearing a nametag) but otherwise my gameplay has consisted entirely of mapping.

Unfortunately I’ve also had crashes. Remember I playing by logging into an HP3000 terminal and the experience is much flakier than I’d like; while I haven’t built up a game yet and am simply in the gathering info phase, if I want to be serious about attempting a win I need to work out how to get a little more stability.

I haven’t played with the new parser features much other than to try a macro.

(Define X)
=E LOOK @1
(X defined)


Round. Made of wood. Not very big.

The command above reroutes the command “X” which is normally unrecognized into “LOOK”.

One last random observation before I sign off: I’m finding the “reject a command” response grating.

This is part of the lush grounds of Warp Park.

I can see the following:
Fig Tree

>climb tree
That makes no sense.

>FLAP FLAP FLAP< I think it's hopeless.

shake tree
"Shake" is Danish to me. Try English.

This is made worse by the existence of a nearby tree that you can climb (by going up). I know authors sometimes try to be colorful in their error messages, but it is highly unlikely the reason a player’s command is unrecognized is a lack of being in English. It’s like the game is expecting the player to apologize and not the game itself.

Posted January 10, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp (1980)   9 comments

WARP \`wo(e)rp\ n 1: a series of yarns crossed by the woof 2: a mental twist or aberration 3: a computer fantasy simulation of adventure and intrigue ~ vt 1: to deplete weight by expungance of existance 2: to become warped

— via the WARP user manual

Rob Lucke and Bill Frolik’s Warp is a tricky game to date because it never had a “release”, and kept getting developed all the way to 1983. Work seems to have started very late in 1979 (and arguably people other than the authors weren’t playing until 1980). Hence I would normally save this game for later in my sequence, but

a.) The only way to play it is via logging in a HP3000 mainframe via telnet. The authors were very canny about not releasing their source so it never has had a modern port. Having this sort of circumstance makes me paranoid the game will disappear forever so I’d like to play sooner rather than later.

b.) Due to the long development time it is very large, with 49 treasures and 1216 points possible. I hence likely will be spreading it out amongst shorter 1979 games.

c.) I have had people reach this blog searching for Warp specifically so there’s at least one person out there waiting for this one.

So, random anonymous Internet person, here you go.

(ADD: I later moved this up to 1980. This makes Warp more consistent with my other mainframe games which start at when the game was first playable by others; I also had gotten worn down at my first attempt. My prophecy that the telnet server would disappear came true, but fortunately there’s a way now to play offline.)


Despite Warp being described as a “fantasy” above, it appears to be generally set in contemporary times. The objective seems to be to collect treasures about the world and put them in a “curator’s case” although I haven’t found any such case yet.

Central Plaza.
You are standing in what appears to be the central plaza of a small seacoast resort. There is a large fountain in the center of this square, and the plaza extends quite a distance to both the north and south. You can see the ocean in the distance to the west, and to the east there is a large building on which there is a sign that reads “WARP BUILDING”.

I can see the following:
Round Peg

Round Peg taken.

Warp Building Lobby.
You’re standing in the lobby of the Warp Building. On the door to the north you read “MEN”; similarly, on the door to the south, “WOMEN”. There’s a security desk between you and the corridor to the east. The only other exit is to the west.

I can see the following:
Security Guard, who possesses:
a Gun

Women’s Room.
Welcome to the women’s room. Looks a lot like the men’s room in many respects, except that there’s only one exit — to the north. A message carved into the wall says: “Call 333-2583”.

I can see the following:
Digital Watch

The digital watch is the first treasure of the game.

There’s a wandering mugger who will take your treasures and stash them in an alley, and a wandering policeman who will take your “weapons” and stash them … I’m not sure where, exactly. There’s a police station but I didn’t find anything there.

“Weapons” seem to include the round peg and a banana. Someone could slip!

I have just been trying to get the feel of the land, which includes dying:

Columbus was wrong.
You’ve floated right off the edge of the known world. All around you lie the remnants of past explorers and their vessels, coffins of worthless hulks. High above you, the waters of the ocean spill down from the world’s edge and splatter like grandiose raindrops all about you.

You begin to thrash madly in the waves as the shark fins come nearer. Your thrashing, however, only serves to send the man-eaters into a feeding frenzy as they home in on you. You hear the crunching of bones as the first shark removes your leg. Suddenly, everything grows dark around you …

You sense yourself leaving your physical body — A spiritual entity in a black haze. The bleakness begins to clear, however, and you begin to recognize familiar things, only everything appears in various shades of grey.

This small cemetary appears to serve the City of Warp, but it does not have room to contain many graves. Small simple grave markers show the location of those in eternal sleep. A large fence prevents you from going east into a very deep ravine.

I can see the following:

Noteworthy is that even that you are *not* resurrected (“>DIAGNOSE” returns “You are dead.”) you can still wander around and look at things, although you can’t pick anything up. I don’t think I’ve hit another game with this feature before.

There’s some interest in Warp past obscurity and massive size; it’s got some monster ambitions for the parser which includes an attempt to make it “smarter than Zork”. It has: backtracking (letting you type BACKTRACK 4 and retrace your last four rooms, for instance), macros (letting you define a set of actions as one command) and conditionals (“IF SEE THE BEAR THEN LOOK AT IT. GO NORTH”). I’ll explore these (and the rest of the game, of course) and report back next time.

Posted January 3, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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