Lugi (1980-1981)   2 comments

One of the best aspects of doing a deep dive into early adventure game history is seeing the breaks from current norms. Modern adventure games tend not to have

(a.) randomized maps

or

(b.) a structure where there is not necessarily an “ultimate ending” and the “goal” is somewhat up to the player.

Aspect (a.) is just rare in general; we saw it in Mines, and we will see it again in 1984 with Chimaera. I can’t think of other adventure games offhand that have complete map randomization. RPGs had the “roguelike” strand of games which made randomization acceptable, but the Adventure genre never picked up a sub-genre which preserved the idea.

(b.) has been lurking in the shadows with most of the 1970s; original Adventure, while having an “endgame”, really goes out of its way to make a full 350-point run hard to get, and we’ve even had games like Mystery Mansion (1978) where deciding on a “goal” is difficult and the player can choose to escape the mansion while far short of the maximum 999 points. This sort of idea pops up again once in a while — see Ryan Veeder’s Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder from 2013 or Hanon Ondricek’s Transparent from 2014 — but again, it never latched onto any kind of Adventure sub-genre so mostly died as a concept.

Lugi was written at Stanford using their Low Overhead Timesharing System (LOTS) on a DECsystem-2060 by Jay Wilson and Paul Kienitz. The latter mentions Lugi on his webpage and has a partial Java port, but I’m playing the original Pascal version compiled by Peter De Wachter for Windows. (He reports GNU Pascal compiles it “almost out of the box”, if you are on a different platform.)

Text banner from the game’s source code.

You are a CIA agent charged with exploring the Lugonian embassy. Odd things have occured there, including the possibility that the Lugimen (who are from Arcturus IV and resemble trolls) have eaten several people, including (we believe) some of the agents we’ve sent into the building. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go in, explore as much of the building as you can, and escape alive, bringing any alien-looking objects you find out with you. The only known opening is a balcony high above the street.

The last agent to get out swears that the Lugimen use teleportation like we use telephones. He was constantly vanishing in one place and appearing in another, as were many of the objects he found. Also, the Lugimen rearrange the floor plan of the building unbelieveably often, though the number of rooms in the building remains constant at 35.

The last line indicates the main gimmick: the map is connected entirely at random. I don’t know yet if the set of 35 rooms is always drawn from the same 35 or if it is drawn from a larger set (so a room may appear in one game but not another).

Here is the start of one game:

You’re in a sunny alcove under a bright skylight.
Open exits: N S

There’s a half-eaten sandwich here.
There is a gleep in this place.

Here is the start of another:

You’re in a round, bare room with a flat black metal floor. A brilliant
point of light, brighter than the sun, dazzles your eyes from high above,
illuminating the empty area.
Open exits: S W J C

There is a gleep in this place.

(The “gleep” seems to be some kind of money — I think it may just be points? “J” and “C” stand for “jump” and “climb”.)

The map is so random that a particular exit in a particular room may lead to a different destination on a second trip. There are also objects scattered (again, at random) like a “stick of gum”, “can of acetone”, and a “flask”. It seems like I’m going to have to track this more like a strategy game than an adventure, where I’m looking for a particular set of items and rooms rather than navigating with a set route.

There’s a small, unhealthy-looking Lugiman here, a real runt, holding a cudgel! He screams at you in Lugonian: something about “filthy Earth vermin” and “stinking Earth germs …us allergic people can’t take it any more!” He raises his cudgel, holding his nose, and prepares to bash your skull in…

I’m still trying to feel out if there’s anything resembling an “ultimate objective”; the intro states to just explore as much as possible and bring alien-looking objects. However, there is one scene that suggests to me there might be a way to “defeat” the Lugimen. There is a control room I’ve found several times, and pushing a button always brings the player to a “cylindrical metal cage” on “Arcturus IV, the home planet of the Lugimen” with “none other than Grugza Emperor Ra-Lugi himself, the absolute ruler of the planet”. In all three times I visted there was a “doglike ugly alien beast” and a “small statuette” that was perhaps “religious in nature”. No other room has had this kind of item consistency. Is this just a trap, or is there some way to defeat and/or make peace with the emperor?

Posted August 15, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “Lugi (1980-1981)

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  1. That seems to be a nightmare of a labyrinth…

    • If it’s literally unmappable, then it’s not really a problem, since you don’t even have to try? I haven’t worked out yet if there is anything you can do other than stumble around randomly.

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