Lugi: A Great Future, Just Beginning   7 comments

I got the highest rank possible, so I think it’s safe to call this done.

Clearly, the best room in the game.

How to Win

In the end, I had to treat this like a strategy game, and that included just resetting altogether if the opening configuration was unfavorable.

1.) Pick a “long” time limit even though a shorter limit gives a point bonus; the extra time to pick up gleeps ends up making up for the loss.

2.) Keep track of the sledgehammer when you find it. When you encounter the guard with his back turned, KILL GUARD WITH SLEDGEHAMMER. He’ll drop a bottle (keep but don’t drink it; it’s Lugi pheromone and you’ll die via “lust-crazed Lugimen”).

3.) When you meet the sick Lugiman, be sure to >SPIT.

4.) Your pockets hold a maximum of 15 gleeps. When you find the bag, make sure you transfer all your gleeps to the bag as you go. You should be able to rack up over 100 if you wander the map long enough.

5.) Feel free to grab the acetone and apply it to the keys if you find both; on my “winning run” I ended up not going through this sequence. If you do get the keys and find the car, you can OPEN TRUNK at get some nitroglycerin inside. The nitro can be thrown at some carnivorous plants (assuming that room exists) for bonus points. If you START CAR after removing the nitro you will escape the embassy; this is an alternative to the balcony.

6.) Try to visit every room; this may require a lot of repetition, but since gleeps appear at random as you keep cycling through rooms, you’ll be gaining points as you go. The extra bonus for visiting all 35 rooms is 80.

7.) You don’t have to visit the emperor to get that 80-point bonus. I still don’t know what to do in that room (his dog is very interested in your empty acetone can if you have one, but that doesn’t stop the guards from shooting).

8.) Don’t touch the half-eaten sandwich (that seems like it might be the actual source of the plague and not the unhealthy Lugiman? I never was quite able to work out the pattern.) If you have a small creature latches itself to your leg and you have the gum, THROW GUM will catch its attention: “The scaly thing on your leg leaps for the gum, begins chewing it frantically, and, in a state of ecstacy, passes out on the floor.” You can’t escape via balcony if it is attached (as far as I can tell, for the car escape it doesn’t matter).

****************** YOUR SCORE ******************
For escaping: 100 points
Killing the guard: 40 points
Dealing with
unhealthy Lugiman: 40 points
Difficulty of game: 0 points
Objects picked up: 50 points
Bringing out gleeps
and alien objects: 176 points
Rooms explored: 105 points
Finding every room: 80 points

Your accomplishments are called “astounding!” The president himself decorates you. You have a great future, just beginning, in the CIA.

The Sense of Humor

There are very few comedy-style games in this era. Probably this game’s closet comparison is Haunt, but while that game has a goofy premise it doesn’t really try to make outright jokes. So if nothing else, I appreciated the surreal splashes in Lugi like a room where lizards are filling out paperwork or the deadpan Adventure reference:

You’re in the Hall of the Mountain King. Anyway, that’s what it looks like.

Really, what does a Hall of the Mountain King look like?

Like many mainframe games we’ve played not based on Adventure (this includes Castle, Mystery Mansion, Library, Alderbaran III, Battleship, and Haunt) there are a few raunchy bits, like this poem in the Men’s Room:

You attempt to translate from the Lugonian:
There was once an explorer [lit. conqueror] named [ “PF”isQ” ]
Whose [shoulders? hips? knees?] were exceedingly brisk
So swift was his action
That [? “Ra!oyguo”, prob. scientific term] contraction
Diminished his [? Ancient High Tongue: cattleprod] to a disk.

The “Ancient High Tongue” is what pushes this joke over the top for me. Unfortunately, I’d say the other raunchy jokes swing and miss (including the fact you can urinate or defacate anywhere, and FART makes a blinding cloud of gas in most rooms).

I do want to re-emphasize: adult and/or gross-out elements are part of nearly every mainframe game from this era that’s not based on Adventure. (The only exceptions are the British games like Acheton which copied the Adventure format, and the non-English games Stuga and Ringen.) I am assuming this had to do with them being created by college students of a particular age but also them not having any commercial aspirations.

Could An Adventure-Roguelike Be Satisfying?

By “Adventure-Roguelike” I’m not meaning a RPG/roguelike that happens to be in text adventure form (like Kerkerkruip or any MUD that lends itself to single-player); I’m meaning a scenario where puzzles form the primary gameplay, yet the environment is still highly generative.

I’ve already delineated the main issue in a previous post: when the environment is randomized, it’s very hard to solve puzzles in an exploratory, systematic way. I see a few fixes that are already present in Lugi in some form; they just need to be amplified a little:

Fix #1: Make very few (or no) events have immediate-game-ending be the consequence of failure. It could drain some resource if a situation is handled unsuccessfully (like health or time); this will allow and encourage more experimentation. Lugi does already have a few parts where you just “lose time” as opposed to losing the game, but for the most part, failure means death.

Fix #2: Amplify the ability to have multiple solutions. Again, Lugi does a little bit of this (note the two entirely different methods of escape) but in a case where stakes are higher, I think it’s more important to accept any reasonable puzzle solution as working either completely or partially. (Perhaps a “less optimal” puzzle solve could burn a little of a resource, but less than if the puzzle was failed altogether. Lugi has this happen with the guard with his back turned; if you don’t have a sledgehammer but do have the nitroglycerin, you can kill the guard with the nitro, except the guard will be able to signal an alarm reducing your overall time.)

and relatedly, Fix #3: Have emergency items that can substitute for puzzle-solving. This sort of technique shows up the Brian Moriarty games Wishbringer and Beyond Zork; for example, in Wishbringer, while every puzzle is solvable without using it, applying one of the wishes from the Wishbringer stone will work for any puzzle. Beyond Zork had a (limited charge) wand of death that could be used to defeat an enemy in lieu of a puzzle-solving method.

What I’m not certain about fixing is the static nature of the puzzles themselves. Lugi does a valiant try at making each map give the player slightly different resources to work with, but in the end I was still repeating the same actions and as opposed to solving through things in different ways. It may be the real fix is to simply embrace strategy and RPG elements. Lugi is such a singular game, and it’s hard to know if the premise could work without more examples.

Lugi ran on Stanford’s Low Overhead Timesharing System; this is one of the custom memory controllers Stanford used (since LOTS needed more users than a standard DEC mainframe could handle).

Posted August 21, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Lugi: A Great Future, Just Beginning

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  1. I’m meaning a scenario where puzzles form the primary gameplay, yet the environment is still highly generative.

    This is ringing faint bells for me of the Spectral Associates TRS-80 CoCo adventure game “Madness and the Minotaur”. In which case the answer was no, very unsatisfying 8)

  2. For a long time, I’ve reckoned that the ‘Cube’ movie series could be adapted as an adventure game in this bent

  3. Fun fact: people other than me have finished the game with scores in the tens of thousands of points, by grasping how the gleep spawning works. The important thing is that big piles get bigger.

  4. Thanks for giving a fine writeup to the game of Lugi. Sure it’s lame in many ways, but I poured my young heart into it, and never felt satisfied as long as it was offline. So now, I’m glad to announce that LUGI IS BACK! It now has a web page where it runs in a simulated terminal.

    This version is significantly different from the one you played. What you found, and what’s been available online, are versions that weren’t final, but snapshots of work in progress. This restored version is an attempt to recreate a more finished version. I’d be thrilled if you give it a try.

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