Archive for August 2017

Adventure 501: Wrong Number   2 comments

Adventure variants are named after their high score. This is imperfect when more than one version has the same top score, and especially confusing in the case of Adventure 501:

>score
If you were to quit now, you would score 45 out of a possible 505.

To clarify (?), the game doesn’t have a hard-coded high score; it’s determined by the events / treasures placed in the game. At one point this port (by Scott Healey) showed a maximum score of 622; after fixing a bug, the high score went down to 496. After fixing another bug, the high score went up to 501. Now it seems to have floated to 505.

According to David Long’s own information (circa 1978) the high score should be 501. So I’m sticking with that, especially since Adventure 501-ish doesn’t sound like a good title.

Updates:

1. I managed to solve one significant puzzle: the sword in the anvil.

You are on a narrow promontory at the foot of a waterfall, which spurts from an overhead hole in the rock wall and splashes into a large reservoir, sending up clouds of mist and spray.
Through the thick white mist looms a polished marble slab, to which is affixed an enormous rusty iron anvil. In golden letters are written the words: “Whoso Pulleth Out This Sword of This Stone and Anvil, is Rightwise King-Born of All This Mountain.”
There is a narrow chimney on the east side of the promontory.
A gleaming sword is stuck into the anvil!

When this happened in Adventure 550 a boost of strength was required. Alas, brute strength here doesn’t help.

>PULL SWORD
You grasp the sword’s handle and give it a mighty heave, but with a loud clang the sword blade shatters into several fragments.

The golden letters give a hint. Earlier, I found a new area by the Hall of the Mountain King:

You are on the east side of the throne room. On the arm of the throne has been hung a sign which reads “Gone for the day: visiting sick snake. –M.K”
An ancient crown of elvin kings lies here!

If you wear the crown, pulling the sword gets a different result:

>PULL SWORD
Taken.

2. As I predicted, there was a large section past “Dante’s Rest” (map shown above). The trident has been moved from its original spot in Adventure 350 to this area.

You are on the eastern shore of the Blue Grotto.
An ascending tunnel disappears into the darkness to the SE.
There is a jewel-encrusted trident here!

>WEST
You can’t swim. You’d best go by boat.

There may be another area with the aforementioned boat. The strangest part past Dante’s Rest is the Rotunda:

You’re in the Rotunda. Corridors radiate in all directions.
There is a telephone booth standing against the north wall.
The telephone booth is empty. The phone is ringing.

>ENTER BOOTH
As you move towards the phone booth, a gnome suddenly streaks around the corner, jumps into the booth and rudely slams the door in your face. You can’t get in.
You’re in Rotunda.
The phone booth is occupied by a gnome. He is talking excitedly to someone at the other end.

There’s a horn and a lyre elsewhere that I’ll try out later to see if I can annoy the gnome enough to get him to leave, but as the setup resets whenever you leave the room, I suspect the solution has more to do with outrunning the gnome than chasing him away.

3. One portion of the game, the section past the troll chasm, looks entirely unchanged at first; no special passage through the lava this time.

From Kim Schuette’s The Book of Adventure Games.

However, there’s one slight difference that has me stumped. I think it may qualify as a new category in my mod taxonomy, but I don’t know what the word for it would be.

Normally the “tasty food” from the opening of the game serves to make the bear happy, but this occurs instead:

>FEED FOOD TO BEAR
All you have are watercress sandwiches. The bear is less than interested.

I don’t have a good answer. This and the phone booth are the only two puzzles that seem to be available. That doesn’t discount the possibility of hidden puzzles; combing over all the prior rooms is a good way to procrastinate while I’m stuck.

Posted August 7, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure 501 (1978)   3 comments

From the cover of Creative Computing port of Adventure, via the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History.

This version of Adventure (by David Long) marks the last one of the 1970s I’m writing about. There are a few that are essentially direct ports I have skipped, but I’ve played all of them that modify Crowther’s original game in some fundamental way.

501-point Adventure has a tangled history, but I’ll simplify things down to say this was the basis of a “lost” 751-point version by David Long in 1980 (it was on Compuserve, and died when Compuserve did) as well as a 551-point version by Doug McDonald from 1984. I’m playing the version at Gobberwarts.

A difference between this version and all the others pops out right away:

You are inside a building, a well house for a large spring. Off to one side is a small pantry.
There is a shiny brass lamp nearby.
There is a leather sack here.
Taped to the wall is a faded poster.

>READ POSTER
The poster has on it a picture of a short, fat wizard with a bushy red beard and a white painted face. He is playing an electric guitar. The caption reads: ‘LOOK OUT KISS!! Here comes WIZZ!!!! Brian Baas lead singer and vocals. Playing at a Woodstock near you!’

>GET POSTER
Hidden behind the poster is a steel safe, embedded in the wall.

I thought for a brief time you were denied the typical food / water / keys at the start of the game, but the pantry can be entered.

>ENTER PANTRY
You’re in the caretaker’s pantry.
There is food here.
There is a bottle of water here.
It contains:
Clear water
There is a large black fly here buzzing around rather lazily.
There are some keys on the ground here.

Note how the bottle “contains: clear water” as a separate entry, as opposed to water just being an object. This game has a “proper” container system where in order to, say, free a bird from a cage, you have to >OPEN CAGE before getting the bird out, or if you want to pour the bottle of water, you have to >OPEN BOTTLE first. In a way, this makes for stronger simulationism, but it’s also more of a pain in practice to type two commands with something that previously only needed one. In short, improving the underlying system made the surface parser worse. For a container system to be an actual improvement, it needs “assumed actions” like in the Infocom parser — that is, if you POUR WATER without having opened the bottle, the game says “(first opening the bottle)” to avoid the tedium of typing an action that was clearly implied.

In any case, I haven’t run into too many more differences yet. There’s these two areas early on…

…but neither as of yet seem to be extensive or interesting (given I found no treasure or item associated with the “Haunted Chamber” I suspect I’m missing something).

I also found a sword in an anvil (very similar to the sword in the stone from Adventure 550) and a chasm called “Dante’s Rest” where I suspect the rest of the rooms are hidden. I will report back my results next time!

Posted August 5, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Enchanted Island (1979)   3 comments

Enchanted Island is the last of the Greg Hassett games from 1979, making it his 6th published game. He was still 13 or 14 at the time. You find yourself on an island (with the usual cave and jungle) and need to collect treasures.

There’s not much I would call “evolution” in his games just yet; the structure feels a lot like Journey to Atlantis. Specifically, there are a lot of rooms with a.) a treasure and b.) some sort of enemy preventing you from taking it. The enemy needs to be chased away, pacified, or subdued, and then the treasure is available. Thus, the gameplay feels like finding the right key for the right lock.

A lot of the connections between enemy/obstacle and the treasure they guard are arbitrary enough that the game has to give pretty explicit hints.

Holy smokes, a tiger! Barbs like ban… (The inky on the rest of the note is too faded to read.)

The message above is from a note in a bottle. If you give the barbarian a banana, it eats it, drops the peel, and leaves.

One of the hints in the game mentions a secret word of “BIMBO”. (I’m not sure why that choice of word. Given the incongruence with the rest of Mr. Hassett’s work I’m tempted to think the author didn’t realize at the time it had a known meaning.) The secret word is essentially the only interesting puzzle, because it took me through several phases:

Phase 1. It didn’t work anywhere.

Phase 2. Later in the game, I got it to work, and it teleported me to a “dead end” in the caves. I figured that was the full effect.

Phase 3. After getting stuck I decided there might be more to the magic, and tried it a second time after reaching the dead end. It teleported me into a previously inaccessible jungle area.

Phase 4. Later, I couldn’t get the magic word to work again. I was unclear what conditions the word did or did not work, and it took some experimenting to realize one of the treasures (a ruby) was allowing the magic to work when I was holding it.

The above sequence incidentally suggests why even simple adventures in general aren’t just locks and keys — or at least describing them as such is too reductive. The “key” for the lock of the magic word was the ruby, but it wasn’t clear what the key was (if it was an item, even) and it wasn’t clear what the key did.

The route to 140 out of 140 points was fairly straightforward, except for an issue with the parser. One of the enemies is a “bear”, and the response to >HIT BEAR is just “I’d rather not. It might hit me back!” (like the barbarian mentioned earlier). I figured that was that and looked for peaceful resolutions, scaring the bear, applying some magic at the bear — no dice. I finally resorted to a walkthrough and found that I could ATTACK BEAR and drive it away, even though my player avatar was too scared to HIT BEAR!

Most would likely shelve this under “guess-the-verb” but the situation is messier; rather than needing to guess a verb, the game split ATTACK and HIT into two distinct actions and the player needed to realize they were *not* considered synonyms, even though the default “you can’t hit” message strongly suggests that attacking is fruitless, too.

In other news, we are now officially almost done with the 1970s. Only David Long’s 501 point version of Adventure remains!

Ok, fine: there’s a non-English Tolkien text adventure from 1979 earlier than LORD I have a lead on, and there was a translation, and I even have a lead on the translation, but I haven’t fully snagged it yet. I’ll loop back during 1980 if I hit paydirt.

Posted August 4, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Library (1978)   2 comments

This is the last Wander system game I had left (the other two were Castle and Alderbaran III). It was written by Nat Howard as opposed to Peter Langston (who wrote the other two as well as the Wander system itself).

The date is admittedly a guess; Peter estimated “somewhere between 1974-1978”. There’s an Alderbaran III reference so it has to be after 1977; the actual date on the most recent revision is 1980.

The map is based on the Widener Library at Harvard (shown below). This makes it mark the starting point of the long tradition of interactive fiction based on actual university surroundings (The Lurking Horror being based at MIT is the best-known example).

Through the wonder of Wander, you are going to explore the remains of a world after Chaos has had its way with it. There are treasures to be had here, but there are also undreamed of dangers. The ghosts of the people who once ruled this world are there still, and the products of their godlike meddling have survived them. Be cautious, daring, and sneaky.

You’re at the foot of the stairs of a huge pillored building. There is a faint inscription on the stone crosspiece above the pillars. Walkways go to the south, east and west.

There is a leather sack here.

The post-apocalypse is a convenient way to avoid dealing with coding active NPCs. Once again, the premise is to collect “treasures”.

I wish I could say it’s a pivotal game somehow, but it’s incomplete, buggy, and full of in-jokes. Some I can’t fathom even after extensive Internet searching, like this chapel where the treasures get deposited:

You’re inside what was once a very, very, socially prominent church. Murals on the wall show the ‘prophet of WWXII’, called ‘Bo Diddley’ by some, performing the Miracle of the Unclasped Hand. Which happened on the very ground on which you now stand!!!!!!
There is a door to the north.

The actual chapel in question has a WWI memorial, but that doesn’t cause the Bo Diddley reference to make any more sense.

A sample bug:

KILL GNOME
The black sword pulses in your hand and begins to hum evilly at the unfortunate gnome. The gnome pales, and leaps at you, hoping to score with the knife. The sword snarls, and forces your arm up, spitting him.

His body vanishes.
You’re in a square chamber 5 cubits by 7 cubits by 8 cubits high. The top of a spiral staircase pokes out of the floor here.
There is an evil gnome here, waving a knife at you!

If I could digress a bit into some coding minutae:

Inform, TADS, Hugo, and a few other interactive fiction coding systems enforce the idea that the words that mean actions are separate from the actions themselves, and actions happen to specific objects in the world. (It’s possible to break both paradigms, but it takes some effort.) That is, if you want to code the ability to >SMELL FLOWERS in a particular area, you need to code a Flowers object that will then link with the Smell verb. Conveniently, this means that SNIFF and any other plausible synonyms will already work (presuming they’ve been matched with the action in the first place) and the flowers can be referred to by other verbs, even if not every use is helpful.

Wander lets you hard-code an action in a room, allowing for terrible habits. You might remember >DROP DIRT from Alderbaran III even though no such object was being held (I suppose the assumption being it was “nearby” somehow). Library runs into parser nonsense early with an elevator sequence:

E
You’re in an elevator used by the building staff at one time. The elevator was controlled by buttons. The buttons are labeled ‘up’ and ‘down’
There is also an oddly-shaped keyhole on the panel with the buttons.

UNLOCK PANEL
Your keys stick in the lock, and the doors close
You’re in an elevator used by the building staff at one time. The elevator was controlled by buttons. The buttons are labeled ‘up’ and ‘down’
There are some keys stuck into an oddly shaped keyhole on the button panel.

PUSH UP
under construction
library elevator
PUSH DOWN
The elevator plummets with a squeal of old machinery.
You’re in an elevator used by the building staff at one time. The elevator was controlled by buttons. The buttons are labeled ‘up’ and ‘down’
There are some keys sticking out of an oddly shaped keyhole on the button panel.
OUT
You can’t leave, the doors are locked.
library elevator
N
You can’t do that now.
GET KEYS
Can’t get keys
TURN KEYS
You can’t do that now.
UNLOCK PANEL
You can’t do that now.
MOVE KEYS
You can’t do that now.

The *only* thing that works is the command >LOCK. Just the word, alone, with no reference to the keys. Argh!

LOCK
The doors open, and the keys fall into your hands.

Science fiction references abound without any attempt at coherency.

You’re in the Star-Trek room. This was quite a tourist draw in its time. Its a mock-up of the Enterprise bridge. Nothing works, of course. The weapons control board is lit, and a button marked ‘Photon Torpedo FIRE’ is blinking.

There are some Vulcan Ears here.

There’s a reference to Adventure, but even it is inscrutable, with a button that arbitrarily ends the game:

You’re in a room used to give demonstrations of computer games. There is a dessiccated corpse still seated at a console, which still displays the words ‘How? With your bare hands?’ There is a bright red button here marked ‘off.’ There are exits to the west, north, and south.

PUSH BUTTON
That’ll teach ya….
You wandered to 12 places in 23 moves.

There is one aspect that I think might be a First for adventure games, and that’s the sack from the very first room. It can contain items, and works as a way around the inventory limit of the game. Also, getting items back from the sack is amusing:

ENTER SACK
You struggle into the sack and then fall in!
You are inside a leather sack. There is some light above you.

There is a wicked looking inscribed knife here.

As far as I can tell, the score goes down rather than up when you deposit a treasure. (The three treasures are, according to the source code: A first-edition Gutenberg bible, a Capt America #1 comic book, and an orchid.) Scanning the code there doesn’t seem to be an end sequence, anyway. Perhaps someone who attended Harvard might glean a little more here, but I think I can safely call this one done.

Second floor of the library, via Wikipedia.

Posted August 2, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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