Archive for December 2019

Unreleased Infocom Game Unearthed (from 1986)   1 comment

Adam Sommerfield just announced on Twitter that he found, amidst the directories of the Infocom Hard Drive, an unreleased game. The author is unknown.

He managed to compile the source code into a playable game. The announcement video is here, which has a download link in the video description.

It seems to be just a test game of sorts, but it is genuinely playable. (I did get a crash — probably an “authentic” one — so beware of bugs.)

Posted December 4, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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His Majesty’s Ship ‘Impetuous’ (1980)   11 comments

Robert Lafore has previously graced this blog with Local Call for Death, Two Heads of the Coin, and Six Micro Stories.

All of them use the same basic interaction gimmick of searching input for keywords, Eliza-style, rather than making full attempts at understanding. If the game is looking for “YES”, both

YES

and

YES BUT I OBJECT TO THIS LINE OF QUESTIONING

are interpreted in the same way. This worked decently in Lafore’s two mystery games (Local Call for Death and Two Heads of the Coin) in that a lot of the interaction was just inquiring after specific pieces of evidence or objects; Local Call for Death even included a room that could be examined like a traditional adventure game.

Six Micro Stories was somewhat less successful, insofar as of the six titular stories, most of them demanded a more open conversational style where it was often possible to say the “right thing” but in the wrong way. For example, in The Fatal Admission, the player is asked a question that is a trap; saying YES is clearly the wrong thing, but saying NO also leads to death. To “win” requires vociferously denying the entire premise of the question to begin with, which can be done in a wide multitude of ways, not all of them conducive to checking for keywords.

His Majesty’s Ship `Impetuous’ changes up the style again, and feels a little like a traditional choose-your-own-adventure. The player is the captain of the Impetuous during a time of war with France and Spain. The game cues the player with specific prompts to respond to.

However, this is not mechanically the same as a choice-based game. While some prompts really do only have the choices given (the one below tests for YES and NO) it’s possible to “type outside the box” so to speak.

Notice the opening quote mark; the game encourages you to punctuate correctly and end with a period mark and quote mark of your own.

I’m going to describe an early event in the game. I’d like to know how you (my faithful readers) would respond; please try to make a comment without reading the other comments first, because I want to tabulate this like a survey. (I will spoil the entire structure of the game next time and really dig into the ramifications of this style.)

In the meantime, if you’d like to just try the game yourself, here is a link to play the TRS-80 version online.

Previously (before the story even started) the Impetuous had done battle with a small French frigate. While winning handily, in the process the well-liked Second Lieutenant Fallow was killed. All were mournful, but especially his brother, Midshipman Fallow. The ship settled in a bay, in order to bury the Second Lieutenant on land.

“Don’t humor me!” Fallow cried, pulling away. “It doesn’t bring back my brother!” His voice had risen to a shriek and the crew stopped and craned their heads to see.

“You must be brave,” Walton said. “He died in the line of duty, for king and country.”

Fallow looked up at him. “Damn the king!” he screamed. “Damn duty, damn the navy, damn you all!” He stopped suddenly, his eyes widening in terror,
realizing what he had said. The crew had fallen so silent that Walton could hear a timber groan somewhere in the depths of the hold.

“I’m sorry sir, I don’t know what I was saying! I don’t know what came over me, I’m sorry, oh, sir…”

Unfortunately, young Fallow here had made a grave mistake: speaking “disrespectfully of the sovereign” gives a sentence of death.

In theory Captain Walton had the power to pardon any crime aboard his ship. Yet if he pardoned young Fallow, discipline would suffer — probably irreparably — as the crew concluded that mutinous acts would not be punished, and that Walton showed favoritism to his officers.

If only there was some way to save young Fallow’s life without pardoning him! But what? Whatever decision he made, Walton knew Fallow’s fate had to be settled the next day, lest delay itself cause discipline to suffer.

The next day, the older brother’s body was taken to land.

Sailing-Master Stayson had remonstrated when Walton ordered Young Fallow into the boat.

“But sir,” he had said, surprised into questioning his captain, “what if he tries to escape?”

“I’ll take my pistols, Walton had told him harshly. It’s his last chance to say goodbye to his brother.”

To hang Fallow, or to pardon him? Or–was there another alternative?

Walton made up his mind. He drew young Fallow away from the grave, out of earshot of the others. He looked the lad in the eye.

“I’ve decided to…

What do you say? Remember, try to make a comment without reading the other comments first.

Posted December 3, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Odyssey #2, Treasure Island (1980)   Leave a comment

There’s a bit of a gap here — the last I wrote about this series was back in 2017 — so just as a refresher, Odyssey #1 started with a royal messenger walking in a tavern, where the proper action was to >ATTACK MESSENGER. After killing the messenger you find out about a dastardly plot involving a damsel in a castle. The game seemingly had some missing backstory: that the character knows something the player doesn’t, which is why stabbing a random messenger was OK — the main character was probably waiting for them specifically to show up.

Odyssey #2 has no such mitigation. The main character is straight-up amoral.

The authors are Joel Mick and James Taranto this time, instead of Joel Mick and Jeffrey M. Richter.

The game starts at an airport diner, when a man sitting next to you dies. You rummage amongst the body and find a key and take it. You take the key to a nearby locker, and find a PILOT’S SUIT, SHOVEL, and CROSSWORD PUZZLE. The suit has a pocket with a treasure map.

You go in a nearby bathroom to change into the pilot suit, then sneak by a guard, board an airplane, and fly to Treasure Island, whereupon the Treasure Hunt part of the game begins as you aim to score 100 out of 100 points by gathering all the treasure you can find like a chest and a “dubloon”.

In a jungle there is a “fort”. If you THROW BOX while at the fort you can bust a hole to break in, and find a headless body in the process, caused by … us? I’m hoping it’s just meant to be an old corpse. The body has a ring, so more treasure for us.

There’s also a gun, which (in contrast to other games I’ve mentioned recently), we get to use. There’s a pirate preventing us from getting to his ship (otherwise not being threatening) but we can SHOOT PIRATE to remove the obstacle. (Although in this case the shot just scares him away.)

The ship has some *20-YEAR OLD SCOTCH* we can take as well as an *ANCIENT MAP*. Piling all the treasures I managed to find so far netted me 70 out of 100 points.

I’m stuck from here. I only have two things that seem left undone: the crossword puzzle left in the locker…

IT SAYS:
ACROSS
1. SLEIGHT OF HAND
2. TYPE OF PUZZLE
THE REST IS TORN OFF.

…and a huge ravine where trying to GO RAVINE gives a response of “HOW? IT’S TOO WIDE!” and LOOK RAVINE indicates a cave in the far wall.

I assume the crossword puzzle is trying to indicate MAGIC WORD and the game indeed understands SAY MAGIC WORD but nothing happens whenever I try it.

I’ve tried bringing a ladder from the pirate ship over to the ravine, but that isn’t helpful either.

>CLIMB LADDER
IT DOESN’T LEAD ANYWHERE, SO I CLIMB BACK DOWN.

I’ve tried (again without luck) poking through the machine code. I did discover the verb >MAS is in the game (“I HAVE NO VISUAL AID”) and there’s also a “Hustler Magazine” object, but I suspect the authors of this game may have disabled the item in current version (the NEWSSTAND at the start of the game seemed like it’d have it, but no verbs I’ve tried work). I’m betting about 60-40 something else is broke that makes the end impossible to reach.

The game is at The Interactive Fiction Archive if anyone wants to take a swing. I’m fine closing out here, though.

Posted December 2, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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