Archive for October 2019

Review: Subcutanean   Leave a comment

Subcutanean is a book where each printed copy is unique; where, rather than writing straight lines of prose, the author Aaron Reed designed text that would spawn multiple variations, what he calls “quantum possibilities”.

Subcutanean is a novel where each copy is custom-printed to be unique; where the author, Aaron Reed, wrote prose designed to spawn a multitude of variants in what he calls “quantum possibilities”.

The novel Subcutanean is by the author Aaron Reed (Blue Lacuna, The Ice-Bound Concordance) but rather than writing straightforward prose, he has written a “generator” that chooses variations of text; each printed copy of the novel is unique.

A sample of variant text from the author’s website; I’ll refer to this later.

Your first question might be “wait, does that work?” which I’ll answer momentarily; however, in general, all I could see was the copy I got (Seed #01893) so I’d first like to review it like an ordinary novel. Do note, however, that any quotes I pull will likely differ from whatever copy you might get (should you choose to buy the novel).

Orion and Niko are friends in college living in an old house. They discover a secret set of stairs leading to a mysterious basement they just refer to as Downstairs: a room “thirty feet across by sixty or seventy long” with “beige carpet and brown wall-paneling” and “five open doorways”.

The open doorways lead to side halls, and those side halls lead to further side halls, and crawlways, and pits, and more angular things.

Without delving too much into spoilers, Orion meets a copy of himself, and things start to slowly go more and more awry such that in order for Orion and Niko escape, they need to go deeper.

While the plot begins as a slow burn, the horror and suspense start to multiply to be about as intense as anything you could read.

There were shots of the pit with nothing else there: no grapples, no ropes, no us. There were shots where the carpet was crawling with beetles. There were shots where the walls were made of meat.

Orion and Niko are extremely well-drawn, and it’s clear the author cares about them both. Orion has a long-standing crush on Niko, and the thematic tension between the two matches the plot without being overbearing.

Relatedly, as a (self-identified) work of queer fiction, this is terrific, and Orion’s feelings of tension and awkwardness and self-discovery are far more believable than many similar attempts I’ve read. Some of the best passages relate to the interplay with Orion’s mental state and past history (“I never once think that he might be like me because I’ve never met anyone like me.”)

The other characters do not fare nearly as well. This is perhaps intentional on the author’s part; the plot is 95% Orion and Niko, and the 5% which involves the rest of the cast is terribly awkward and there’s even some dialogue challenging Orion to remember the names of the housemates. Still, I’ve read novels where the main character was apathetic about others but they were always there, as characters; that doesn’t happen here.

The prose is generally strong and confident. If I didn’t know about the “quantum text” aspect beforehand I likely would never have known about it.

However —

It’s not quite as good as it could be. In some cases I was ready to reach for an editor’s pen (the opening, in particular, could be a lot tighter). I was often left wondering if a potential edit was inherently structural or due to the wild multitude of textual possibilities.

The act of writing well involves many interlocking details, and some combinations display greater artistry than others in a way that’s hard for a procedural text generator to capture.

Compare these two from the author’s site (from the image linked earlier):

“Huh.” I blinked. Green. His eyes were green. “Not really my thing.”

“Huh.” I stirred the pot. “Not really my thing.”

I had the first in my own copy, and actually noted it down at the time as a strong bit of prose. It very subtly gets across Orion’s crush (it was the first moment I was sure this was going to be queer fiction), and has a lovely symmetry besides with the word “green”. It contrasts nicely with the line after (“Not really my thing”) where there are two opposing forces in the narrator’s mind.

By contrast, the second line is non-descript and unmemorable. Not only is the changed portion weaker, but it causes the dialogue line after to be weaker. (Perhaps paired with some other text it might be better, but I don’t know what the possibilities of the generator are.)

I do want to emphasize the experience is still extremely smooth, and there’s a strong meta-aspect that gives the act of reading the novel itself a feeling of suspense. Even on the plot alone this is an excellent yarn, and if the unique-novel aspect interests you at all, I give this a strong recommend.

Subcutanean has a crowdfunding goal in progress on Indigogo. I received a reader copy for free. Aaron Reed runs the Spring Thing competition which I have submitted prizes to before but I otherwise don’t know him personally and I haven’t worked with him professionally.

Posted October 29, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: The Deadliest Treasure Collection in the World   9 comments

I have, according to Russell Karlberg’s walkthrough, collected every single treasure in the game and placed them in the display case.

This might be my last post on Warp, so: extreme spoilers as usual.

Image from a Video Game in Warp. This game seems to be a red herring; you can find a shiny quarter and try it, but the machine is busted.

 

Curator’s Office.
This is a large office with a musty smell. The walls are lined with rows and rows of books. Numerous stacks of paper and partially restored objects are piled about the room. A large desk with a leather-backed chair stands in one corner of the room. The only exit is through the door to the east.

I can see the following:
Lead Box
Display Case

>LOOK IN CASE
The Display Case contains the following:
Platinum Apple
Astrolabe
Bronze Ball
Koala Bear
Railroad Bond
Golden Bullion
Expensive Camera
Carpet
Chalice
Nautical Chart
Silver Coins
Silver Cross
Jeweled Dagger
Crystal Decanter
Yellow Diamond
Ebony Diamond
Jade Egg
Green Emerald
Red Emerald
Blue Emerald
Silver Flute
Golden Globe
Leeverite
Ruby Lense
Holy Mackeral
Treasure Map
Golden Matador
Memoirs
Black Opal
Painting
Large Pearl
Shiny Quarter
Silver Ring
Scarab Ring
Mink Slippers
Crystal Sphere
Green Stamp
Tablet
Devil’s Trident
Ivory Tusk
Uranium
Egyptian Urn
Patagonian Vase
Deadly Warponium
Digital Watch
Silk Web

Mind you, this case has

a.) a chunk of Uranium, where if you are nearby long enough you’ll die
b.) deadly Warponium, where also if you are nearby long enough you’ll die

The upshot of a.) and b.) is if you admire the collection for longer, than, say, two turns, this will happen:

The constant, relentless bombardment of your body by ionizing radiation from the uranium results in your half-life expectancy reaching zero. Your hair is falling out in patches and you feel incredibly weak. Next time, I would take the proper precautions in handling radioactive materials …

If the Uranium and Warponium happen to be together anywhere *other* than the display case, the effect is even shinier:

A strange sizzling sound begins to eminate from the container as the U238 and Warponium come within fighting distance. Upon taking a closer look, you see an intense purple glow interspersed with lightning-like bolts of energy being exchanged. As you watch, the two elements melt, run together and reach critical mass. You are really quite fortunate, as not many people get to see the beginnings of a mushroom cloud from this close…

Here were how my outstanding issues from last time were resolved, in reverse order:

1.) The Pyramid maze I confess I didn’t resolve at all. That portable hole I mentioned does connect with almost everywhere, including the final burial chamber of the maze, so I kept experimenting until I got lucky and was able to scoop up the Egyptian Urn (25 points) and use my Magic Carpet to escape.

2.) Resolving the obelisk was anticlimactic; I did almost the same thing as in my last post’s transcript, except I was holding only the yellow diamond. By doing so, I ended up with both the yellow diamond and an ebony diamond. I don’t understand the logic to why this happened, or if there even is logic.

3.) The monitor lizard really almost wasn’t a puzzle. While you can’t take the Jade Egg while it is in the room with you, any form of teleportation (by, say, portable hole) will cause it to “lose your trail” so you can go back and pick up the egg.

You may notice a thread of not-terribly-satisfying solutions, and that unfortunately held for most every problem that remained. All this time in the ocean there’s been a Spanish Galleon moving about, and I finally found (via a hint of Russell Karlberg’s) that standing on the deck of the ship and typing

>SAY “FIRE ONE”

will fire a torpedo. This allowed me to sink the Galleon, and then dive and get some treasures that were inside.

>lower sail

The sail falls limp as you lower it.

>attach ladder to boat

Short Ladder attached to Boat.

>leave

Well, okay, if you really want to …
>>> SPLASH ! <<<

>d

Underwater.

You’re submerged beneath the waves. Sharks can be seen coldly
circling nearby.

I can see the following:
Sunken Galleon, which contains:
an Astrolabe
a Jeweled Dagger

I would have preferred at least an indication that the boat had some sort of voice-recognition control. There’s also lower decks to the main boat but I was never able to enter them legitimately; I just used the portable hole/carpet combination again to pick up the one treasure that was down there.

The very last puzzle I resolved was one of the very first puzzles I attempted back when I first started Warp. There’s a Koala Bear up a tree that counts as a treasure, but every time I tried to put it in the display case for points (as one typically does with any normal koala bear) it would wander out. I eventually found the solution was … reloading and attempting the same thing again 15 times before I got a lucky roll and was able to close the display case before the koala got out.

Despite the anticlimaxes, I did find getting the last treasures exciting insofar as I’ve been living with Warp a long time, so each of the last treasures led to a tangible sense of success.

I’m going to make some conclusions below, but note I’m probably not technically done with the game — there’s supposedly an “endgame” just like Adventure and mainframe Zork. I don’t know how to get it to trigger; I might just take a pass and let my hardy commentators go for it. My guess is it involves either this location

W.I.T. Laboratories.
You have entered sacred ground. In this very small, round, green windowless room, all of the conceptual puzzles of Warp were devised. There is one desolate computer terminal collecting dust in one corner, while numerous computer listings lie neatly stacked in another.

I can see the following:
Coke Machine
Transit Pass
Professor

and/or this location

Warp Room.
In this otherwise vacant room, you see before you a doorframe, roughly centered against a solid brick wall. Two large cables snake their way from the frame into the center of the room. The other walls of the room are completely blank, and the only apparent exit is the way you entered, back to the east.

I can see the following:
Short Cable
Long Cable

neither which I have found useful up to this point. (The professor will say random phrases like “I never swim with short cables.” or “I think a ship will easily bite in the dark of night.” if you TELL something to him.)

OBSERVATION NUMBER ONE: ON PLAYING A LARGE OPEN GAME

The first time I played Warp, the map was so large I got too exhausted to solve any puzzles before bowing out. The second time, there was still a lot to fill in, but as I got more familiar with the geography, the map “felt” smaller and smaller. I could rapidly type of a string of E.E.E.E.E.N.N. (etc) to go from location to location, so it was as if the world had compressed once I was familiar enough with it. This was even true for the large ocean sailing section, where I mentally tagged things by relative location as opposed to thinking of it square by square (“the fog bank is here, and if I go south here I’ll hit the sealion caves”).

The ocean wraps around (that is, if you keep going one direction you end up where you started), so there’s a little redundancy here.

 

I’m wondering if it would be possible to accelerate this process. An automap would help, surely, but that might not be everything; perhaps some equivalent to the friendly guides and arrows that appear in modern RPGs. Maybe the automap can work not just at the “room” level but the “region” level where it starts to indicate how to group sections (so it’s easier to think in terms of the “meta-map” of smaller pieces).

An approximate “meta-map” of the world of Warp. This is how it was stored in my head.

 

 

OBSERVATION NUMBER TWO: ON THE PARSER

The authors really tried hard to make an elaborate parser. Not only does it understands full sentences and multiple commands, it includes features I’ve seen rarely elsewhere (or never seen at all) like backtracking, macros, and conditional IF-THEN statements.

The parser is still terrible.

Really, it’s like they focused on the wrong things. Synonyms are essentially non-existent. Typos count as in-world commands so when doing a time-sensitive task you can die just by typing WARPINIUM rather than WARPONIUM. LOOK IN is considered a special command opposed to LOOK (something I didn’t learn until after about being 80% through the game). A number of actions which I wouldn’t think about in an Infocom game I tore my hair out on here, like trying to use a transit pass to get into a subway. (When there’s a bad parser and full sentences, “guess the verb” can turn into “guess the complete phrasing”.) The characters barely react to any conversation attempts.

Mind you, this isn’t Deathship-level pain here, but a good parser is about understanding most of what someone would reasonably type and giving helpful guidance leading the player to the right syntax when it doesn’t happen. Even a two word parser can do this! Multiple commands and so forth are nice, but they aren’t everything.

OBSERVATION NUMBER THREE: ON ONE UNFORTUNATE BIT

I don’t want to linger here too long, because it’s 0.00001% of the game, but there’s a “bathing ugly” part which grated me the wrong way. If you’re playing this game, just know you can attempt to >KISS UGLY (this scares them away) and then not have to think about that scene any more.

OBSERVATION NUMBER FOUR: ON THE ADULT CONTENT

Because this is a mainframe game that isn’t based on Adventure (see: Castle, Aldebaran III, Library, Haunt, Battlestar, Lugi), it is nearly obliged to have a scene like this:

Rocky Beach.
This is the eastern most point of the beach that you can get to; there’s a large fence to the east, too tall to see over, that features a sign reading

Au Natural Beach
Entrance by invitation only

>S
You swim ahead, oblivious of danger.
Ocean.
Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink. (Unless you like salt water.) There’s land to the north.

>E
On a Reef.
You’re over an underwater reef. There’s land visible to the north.

Say, did you ever see “Jaws”?

>N
A jeering band of nudists prevents you from landing on the beach.

The puzzle is probably the best of the game. You can find in a Lighthouse, rather oddly, Absolutely Nothing. This is an item you can not only take but you can wear.

>WEAR NOTHING
Absolutely Nothing put on.

>S
You swim ahead, oblivious of danger.
Ocean.
Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink. (Unless you like salt water.) There’s land to the north.

>E
On a Reef.
You’re over an underwater reef. There’s land visible to the north.

Say, did you ever see “Jaws”?

>N
NUDE BEACH!
This is one of two nude beaches in Warp. Congratulations for figuring out how to get in here (it’s usually reserved for invited guests only.)

I can see the following:
Painting

As I did earlier state, I’m possibly stopping here, although if I do wander into the Endgame later it may be worth a post. In the meantime I do want to get a few IFComp reviews up before the November 15 deadline; then I’ll start to take down the last 1980 games. My goal is to make it to 1981 by the end of the year.

Posted October 24, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: The Deep Places   117 comments

Last time, I came across a hole in the center of a maze.

>LOOK
The hole, being the absence of anything, is impossible to inspect.

The hole turns out to be incredibly useful; you can pick it up (!) and wear it (!!). You can put it down wherever you like; usually, it then connects to some random spot on the map, so you can use it to move items when you normally can’t.

For example, there’s a “Fog Bank” …

The fog is so dense you could cut it with a knife! There is nothing but whiteness in every direction!

… where you can take the text quite literally and >CUT FOG WITH KNIFE:

>cut fog with knife

The fog quickly thins out.
Flat Rock Shoal.
A light fog mists about as you find yourself at a small, flat-top rock rising a few feet above the water. The rock extends somewhere to the north, and although the fog is light, you cannot see very far in that direction. Water lies all about in other directions.

I can see the following:
Boat, which contains:
a Sail

Once you’ve done this, you can find a safe with a black pearl. The safe is unlocked (so easy to open) but if you take the pearl you are unable to move (undoubtedly some mystical security system the game fails to clarify). If you have the hole dropped in the safe location, you can just DROP PEARL IN HOLE and safely make your escape.

The hole is an appropriate item to start this post since my general theme has been “finding things beneath other things.”

Mayan Room.
A large disc, covered with ancient Mayan inscriptions, dominates this display. The disc is made of solid rock, and if I remember my ancient Mayan history, it’s probably some kind of calendar. There is a door to the west, and the museum continues to the north.

I can see the following:
Stone Disc, which contains:
a Green Emerald
a Red Emerald
a Blue Emerald
Curator’s Door

>LOOK EMERALDS
Green Emerald
The emerald is a rich, traditional shade of oceanic green, and is perhaps the size of a small golfball.
Red Emerald
This emerald is unusual in that it is a brilliant hue of ruby red. About the size of a walnut, it glistens in the light before your eyes.
Blue Emerald
A sky-blue emerald, extremely rare! Maybe 19 millimeters across, and undoubtedly worth a king’s ransom.

This place is in the museum; a long while black I blogged about a cryptogram which translated as THIS PASSAGE UNLOCKS ONLY TO HE WHO SOLVE THE SECRET OF THE STONES. I’d been hacking at this puzzle in frustration for a long time before Roger Durrant mentioned something about rubbing the emeralds. I had tried that, I thought to no avail:

>RUB BLUE EMERALD
The Blue Emerald does nothing.

While the Blue Emerald “does nothing”, one of the other emeralds changed.

>LOOK EMERALDS
Green Emerald
The emerald is a rich, traditional shade of oceanic green, and is perhaps the size of a small golfball.
It is glowing intensely.
Red Emerald
This emerald is unusual in that it is a brilliant hue of ruby red. About the size of a walnut, it glistens in the light before your eyes.
Blue Emerald
A sky-blue emerald, extremely rare! Maybe 19 millimeters across, and undoubtedly worth a king’s ransom.

Notice the “glowing intensely” now attached to the green emerald. There doesn’t seem to be any logic here — this is a straight-up maze were you transition from state to state of various emeralds glowing, with the goal of having all three emeralds be glowing. The full move list is

RUB BLUE EMERALD
RUB GREEN EMERALD
RUB RED EMERALD
RUB GREEN EMERALD
RUB GREEN EMERALD
RUB RED EMERALD
RUB RED EMERALD

You can then PRESS DISC to get

As you press, the disc slowly slides back into the wall, revealing a long, musty staircase descending down into the unknown.

The underground includes a “Batcave”, which is too weird to describe, so I’ll just quote it:

This cavern appears to be all that’s left of a long-lost television series. Bats hang from the ceiling all about you, and the floor is sticky with bat guano. Across one wall you can see the remains of what looks like a large computer, and near the other wall there is a large city map labelled “GOTHAM”.

I can see the following:
63 Chevy

>LOOK CHEVY
Oh, wow, man. Complete with dingle balls in the windshield!

>BOARD CHEVY
The doors have been welded shut and all the dingle balls hanging in the windows make it impossible for you to put more than your arm into the car.

>GET ALL FROM CAR
Framastat taken.

>LOOK FRAMASTAT
It’s a small metal cube with octagonal indentations on each face.

There’s also a section with a tiny maze where you can only go east and west:

Room with Two Exits.
You are in a small, featureless room with cold, grey stone walls
A crude rock slide leads up the way you came, but you cannot climb it. You have available two passages carved from the stone, one the east, and one to the west, both mirror images of each other.

(Note: Exit with WEST. WEST. EAST. WEST.)

This is followed by a “Monitor Lizard” guarding a Jade Egg.

Lizard Den.
You find yourself inside a small alcove that was probably once the home of a large reptile. Shedded skin and unfamiliar bones litter a small earthen hole worn a few inches into the ground. The only way out is back to the north.

I can see the following:
Jade Egg
Monitor Lizard
A huge lizard seems to be following you.
It is hissing threateningly!

The lizard seems to become a permanent follower after this encounter and comes with you all about the map, including if you go sailing in the ocean. It is possible to temporarily “lose the trail” (which gives you enough a window to go back and get the Jade Egg) but eventually, it seems like the lizard will always find you. I’m saving this to be one of my last treasures; even if the lizard does nothing but watch, it’s still a constant irritant, kind of like the beeping sounds in Zelda when you’re down to one heart. (Here’s an hour-long loop of the aforementioned beep.)

Getting out of this area was one of the niftier puzzles of the game, because I had to realize how the various bits of geography related. I had reached this room, which seemed to be the end of the line:

Cliff Ledge.
You are standing at the brink of a sheer rock wall, the ocean swelling and churning far below you. A large opening in the face of the cliff is to the east, and you can hear band music playing somewhere far above your head.

However, the band music was a clue to the location; this had to be below the northwest corner of the Warp map.

This led me to realize I could tie a piece of rope to the pine tree at Land’s End (see on the map above) which would let me climb to and from the Cliff Ledge area.

One of the enemies I’ve passed mentioning last time was a Mad Doctor. He attacks more or less like a Zork enemy.

>SHOOT DOCTOR

>BANG!<

You deal a swift attack! The doctor trips …

You feel a tightening in your throat and gasp for air as the doctor whips his stethoscope around your neck!

Unlike a classic Adventure or Zork enemy which disappears in fog, this one leaves a corpse.

You issue a final blow, and the doctor slumps dead to the floor!

This is a clue the corpse is useful. You can go to a nearby graveyard and bury it.

If you do so you get a Devil’s Trident (a treasure) which you can then use to access an “Underworld”.

This is still part of the overall Warp map. You end up in “river zone” between the town and the desert.

Within this region, there’s not much other than a Shrubbery, a Monty Python joke …

The shrubbery is just a small inconspicuous bush. If you had another one, you could brace it alongside the first shrubbery, but a little bit lower to get a two level effect with a path running down the middle …

… a ride down the river with a bathtub …

Boiling Headwaters. (in tub)
The rushing waters of the Great Rift River boil and churn about you. Steam fills the air as it rises from the waters below to from a dense fog overhead.

… and a very strange bit with an Obelisk. I really don’t know what to do here.

Lost Civilization of the Implementors.
Around you stretches the expansive remains of some now lost civilization. Rectangular obelisks of varying height and size march in all directions in a pattern that appears to be circular in nature and centered about one large obelisk in particular. Shadows cast by the sun create a landscape dominated by light and dark contrasts, permeated with the sound of flowing water echoing and reverberating throughout the area.

I can see the following:
Ebony Obelisk

>i

You are carrying the following:
Carpet
Yellow Diamond
Crystal Sphere

(Side note: The “Carpet” is a flying carpet that seems to be the only way to leave this area.)

>enter obelisk

… you begin to hear a low hum …

>look

Lost Civilization of the Implementors.
Around you stretches the expansive remains of some now lost civilization. Rectangular obelisks of varying height and size march in all directions in a pattern that appears to be circular in nature and centered about one large obelisk in particular. Shadows cast by the sun create a landscape dominated by light and dark contrasts, permeated with the sound of flowing water echoing and reverberating throughout the area.

I can see the following:
White Obelisk

>enter obelisk

You feel a short heatwave.
The humming has stopped.

>i

You are carrying the following:
Ebony Cube

Finally, there is a pyramid in the southeast corner of the desert.

It’s possible to land inside randomly via hole teleport, or if you stick a hole right on top you’ll be able to get inside that way.

Antechamber.
You find yourself in the antechamber of the Great Pyramid of Warp. The room about you is fairly barren, with huge sandstone walls and only one apparently continuing passage to the north. Ancient heiroglyphics decorate the walls in a lost language of signs and symbols, but are now largely obscured and unreadable due to many years of senseless vandalism by scores of would-be grave robbers.

I can see the following:
Stone Button
Stone Pedestal

>n

Inside the Pyramid.
You are somewhere inside the Great Pyramid. A door is to the north.

I can see the following:
Stone Button
Stone Pedestal

It’s a gimmick maze that’s very hard to describe, but I’ll do my best. The map has an “Antechamber” at the center and “spokes” leading out.

The only direction you can go at any point is “north” if you keep going north eventually you’ll rotate back to the start of whatever section you’re in (assuming you have access, this means you keep returning to the antechamber).

“North” on this map is the starting rotation (at least the one I saw). If you push the antechamber button, you’ll rotate clockwise one step. So for example, if you push the antechamber button twice, you are in the Antechamber-chamber-chamber portion of the map with three linked rooms. If you push it five times (so you are “facing the southwest” on the map above, even though you’re going north) then heading north from the antechamber just loops back to the antechamber with no extra rooms.

If you push a button in one of the regular chambers (as opposed to the center room) things start to go really crazy. I haven’t been able to even begin to scratch the surface of the puzzle, but it seems like there are rotating walls that get moved around, but I haven’t found any configuration that works consistently.

For example, on the map above, if you go to the chamber “south” or “southeast” of the opening room and push the button, the map changes to the one below:

I’ve tried a couple methods of mapping and all of them have given me a headache.

While I think I’ve hit most of the thresholds of the game, I’m starting to reach my exhaustion point. I may have to do the unprecedented step (for the All the Adventures project) of taking a second breather from Warp before I finish it, unless I have some kind of major breakthrough soon.

Posted October 21, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: Swimming and Sailing   25 comments

With IFComp, I’ve managed to plow through about 10 Twine games and 0 text adventures. Warp occupies enough headspace that I have trouble fitting anything similar in, but other interactive fiction seems to occupy a different brain category. (I will probably do reviews, but as a “compilation” where I will compare a bunch of games at once.)

A “majestic Spanish Galleon” which patrols the seas. If you’re swimming, it doesn’t bother you; if you’re sailing, it fires cannons. Warp has the largest amount of ASCII art I’ve seen in an adventure game. Both mainframe Zork and Stuga included a handful, but I’ve seen something like 30 pictures in Warp so far.

 

I’ve opened up quite a bit of map and found many more treasures, although I haven’t done a run yet where I’ve gathered them all at once. Part of this has to do with a nasty discovery Roger Durrant made.

I had (without too much difficulty or fanfare) discovered that in the Bank of Warp, the vault opens at a particular time (hinted at by a note in the Director’s office). I was then able to sneak in and grab some gold bullion, delivering it to the display case in the Warp Museum and netting a total of 35 points. Roger subsequently tested out the same solution and found he couldn’t do it; essentially, if you miss the time window near the start for entering the vault, you have broken the game.

I am hence somewhat paranoid about other potential softlocks, and since Warp is fairly open, I’ve got various save games running in parallel as I thwack at the various mysteries and puzzles. Most notably, there’s a lamp with a battery having limited time, just like Adventure/Zork/Acheton, and I’m worried once all the uses are taken into account the time limit is tight. I still remember in the last part of Acheton having to walk through darkness to the endgame (saving repeatedly and restoring when I fell into a pit by chance); with Warp I have no such way out, because if your lamp gives out in darkness you die right away.

My major lamp use went into mapping a maze.

I first thought this was going to be a “well-behaved” maze where directions go back and forth in the direction you expect, and indeed the first portion of my expedition went that way. The map was laid out in “micro-floors” with up-and-down stairs connecting a little randomly, but each floor being normal. There was a treasure which took a little effort to find, I mopped up most of the available directions, and that was that.

However, in one of the last exits I checked (in a pair of rooms marked “Kilroy Was Here” and “Kilroy Was Here Too”) the micro-floor idea continued, but there were now many more “punishment” one-way exits. By that I mean if you went the “wrong way” you were sent far off course, essentially guaranteeing there was no way to find a good route at random. Structurally, this seems intended as a fake-out — trying to coax players into giving up at finding the first treasure and assuming the maze has nothing else to yield.

Secretarial Pool.
This is a large room with a high ceiling, glass walls, and a large, deep, swimming pool in the center. There is a sign next to the diving board that reads

WARP BUILDING SECRETARIES ONLY!
(Executives Forbidden)
Please Wash Toes Before Entering
the Pool.

There are two ways out, to the east and back to the north.

I can see the following:
Fins
Swimming Pool
Secretary
Postage Stamp

Incidentally, JUMP IN POOL is death.

You gracefully execute a perfect swan dive into mid air. In your great haste, however, you failed to notice that the Warp Building Maintanence crew has drained the pool to keep it from leaking into the Operating room below. But they are efficient, and will undoubtedly scrape up your remains before refilling the pool …

In an adjacent room there’s a hole that you can pick up, and move to other places (!). I haven’t worked out the full mechanics of how this works. I was too busy otherwise trying to map out the ocean.

Haunt’s 7 by 7 by 7 cube of water was technically larger, but this still trumps anything I’ve previously played in terms of elaborateness. You can swim out alone (although if you are out more than 3 turns, you get attacked by sharks). There is the occasional stable position which resets the “shark counter” — like a fog bank — so I was able to use those to do produce quite a bit of the map.

Some locations are just too far from shore and you need a boat. There is a boat sitting out in the open and I’m fairly sure using it wasn’t really intended as a puzzle, yet it’s very easy to miss how to launch it. You can go DOWN and find another room.

You find yourself in the main cabin of the boat. The walls here are dark paneled, and there is a well-used bunk along the port side. A small wooden cabinet is built into the wall at the bow end of the bunk. At the aft end of the starboard wall is a large closet, and the remainder of the room sports nothing of interest other than a few shelves. A few short steps at the aft end of the cabin lead back up to the main deck, while next to them another short stairway leads down, apparently to a lower deck.

I can see the following:
Bunk
Wooden Cabinet
Closet

There’s a sail in the closet; take it upstairs and RAISE SAIL and the boat will become mobile.

While reefs are no threat while swimming, they smash up the boat if you hit them while sailing. I find the dual-meaning to the locations intriguing. (There actually seems to be triple-meaning because diving underwater seems to be possible, although I haven’t tested it yet — hopefully next time.)

I will be traveling so the next post might be delayed a little. If you need some reading material in the meantime, there is a spreadsheet that is collecting the current reviews for IFComp.

Posted October 6, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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The 25th Interactive Fiction Competition is Open   1 comment

You can find all 82 entries here.

Posted October 1, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction