Alkemstone (1981)   14 comments

August of 1979 saw the release of Masquerade, a picture book that was also a puzzle with the solution being the location of a golden hare. It created both frenzy and scandal, but that is not our story for today.

Two years later (before the Masquerade contest had even ended) a man named Gene Carr at a company called Level-10 made a treasure hunt of his own. Like Masquerade, it involved a treasure buried somewhere in the real world and clues to find it, but rather than hiding the clues in a book, he hid them in an Apple II game.

Via Old Video Game Advertisements. The prize was eventually upped to $7500, although the company Level-10 went defunct not long after.

There were two ways to win:

a.) Find and deliver the physical Alkemstone, and describe its location.

b.) Send a detailed description of the Alkemstone’s hiding place.

In both cases, a particular lawyer (Ray Sutton) was in charge of verifying the winner. Mr. Sutton is still alive and has verified he never awarded the prize, and he has no record of the stone ever being found.

In other words, the treasure hidden 39 years ago is likely still in its original location, the hints locked in an Apple II game that barely anyone has played.

On an obscurity ranking system from 1 to 10, Alkemstone lands at about 8.5. Still, it has occasionally surfaced as a piece of gaming trivia — here’s John Romero tweeting about it in 2012 — yet even though it occasionally gets observed

Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone got busy on an old copy of the game and found the stone?

nobody seems to have picked up the gauntlet.

The buck stops here. Let’s try to solve the mystery.

Now, this is rather different than my usual playthroughs for All the Adventures, insofar as the end result of all this may involve unearthing a real item. I do want to emphasize that the Alkemstone as an object in itself is not considered valuable (unlike the golden hare); the potential money came from proving where it was. Additionally, despite the lawyer still being alive, the company that offered the prize is long defunct. That means there’s no money at stake, just historical interest.

I will state up front if by some happenstance I come to possess the stone personally, I will donate it to a gaming museum like the Strong. In the (much likelier) event it lands in someone else’s hands I hope they do the same, but I can’t enforce that.

And of course, the Alkemstone may be buried under a parking lot or lost due to some other circumstance.

So feel free to contribute any theories as I post clues, but keep in mind the above caveats. I won’t say it will end in disappointment because even if the physical stone is never found, the solution to the game in general has been a long-open question and would be an achievement in itself; there’s no maps or hints or walkthrough here to rely on.

The first scene upon entering the maze; there’s no “hanging banners” style messages other than this one.

Enough preliminaries: what is the game like?

The snakes pass by at random.

Alkemstone adapts the 3D engine from Kaves of Karkhan into a pure-exploration game. There are no obstacles, unless you count illusionary walls and a very, very, large map.

Around half of the map; I still need to fill in a lot of the other half.

The maze is seeded with clues. You can find them on the walls

or you can find them looking up (tap U to look up)

or looking down (tap D to look down)

The clues are scattered everywhere; finding them all is partially a matter of just being thorough. Sometimes the clues are “solid” and will always appear, but sometimes they flash on and off, or only are visible 1 out of every 10 or so times looking at a particular ceiling. To give you an idea of how easy the clues are to miss: even though I have found 25 “clues” so far I am missing the two shown in screenshots on Mobygames.

I will say the maze is not randomized, and despite the manual’s claims to the contrary, the clue locations don’t seem to be randomized either. It’s still true more than one “walk through” is likely required to spot everything.

I’m going to try my best to sort the clues I’ve found so far by type, but these categories are arbitrary and may be misleading in terms of how the clues actually connect.

In case it’s important, I do have where I found them marked on my map, but I’d like to get my full map closer to completion before I share it.

IMAGES AND SYMBOLS:

NUMERICAL CLUES:

MESSAGES:

This image also appeared on a wall. I don’t know if the duplication is redundancy to help keep from missing certain things or a clue.

THE TWO FROM MOBYGAMES I HAVEN’T FOUND YET:

While there are some obvious surface observations I could make, I’m going to save them for the comments. Just keep in mind the game was released in 1981 (late in 1981; the Nov-Dec 1981 issue of Computer Gaming World mentions it will be available by Christmas, and it has a trademark filing of November 12) so any events or media references to works 1982 or later won’t apply.

There is an online version of the game available, except it gets stalled when asking to flip the disk. There might be a button press in the emulator that will work, but I wasn’t able to play any further.

Posted February 5, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

14 responses to “Alkemstone (1981)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I don’t have much time at the moment, but “Wo Adler sich sammeln” (those are Ls and not Is) is from the German KJV of the Bible, Matthew 24:28.

    It may be purely a numerical clue? The English translation of the entire verse is For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

  2. While neither 126789 or 121231 are divisible by 4, they are if you add them:

    62005

    this might connect with WHOLE BUT NOT COMPLETE.

  3. Probably something that has already been tried over the years, but one way to get from MIKE to LAMB is:

    LIKE
    LAKE
    LAME

    There’s at least one Lame Lake in Italy…

    • I could also see this being a hint for a particular wordplay used elsewhere (suppose KAMM has some matching word somewhere, say).

    • There are a few ways to get from MIKE to LAMB: start with LIKE / MAKE / MIME then LAKE / LIME then LAME / LIMB (8 paths total when you write them all out).

      • It might be just coincidental, but the roam/home -couplet in one of the clues might be a blunt hint to narrow the search to Italy. And 9.7914 is strikingly close to the longitude of the lake in decimal degrees (only 1 h 25 min drive says Google).

  4. Tried the obvious and looked through the emulator savestate memory. Nope. :-(

    • I’m all for hacking the game if it’s practical.

      I will still be playing it the “normal” way not just because it is part of the Project and I want to know the experiential feeling, but that there may be a clue or two derived from the gameplay itself (I have found one place where messages were arranged quite intentionally).

  5. Kit Williams’ book certainly inspired a lot of computer game copycats. On one of the 8-bit text adventure groups we’ve been discussing real-life prize games recently such as King Solomon Mines, Spirit of the Stones, The Secret of Tamworth Manor, The Sign of Hadrin, The Ket Trilogy, Pimania, The Wrath of Magra, Lancelot, Eureka! and the Masquerade-linked (worst computer game ever made) Hareraiser. They became incredibly popular in the mid-eightees and then sort of died out.

    Some of the solutions to the puzzles or riddles are unbelievably obscure so good luck with this one!

    • Are any of the others like this one where there is no “game” present without the treasure hunt? (not counting Hareraiser which by all accounts didn’t even really have the treasure hunt)

      • I don’t think so. Most of the examples I’ve come across (excluding Hareraiser!) had some sort of game in that can be enjoyed, to an extent, without the associated treasure hunt or competition. How much the two elements (of game and competition) overlap does vary quite a bit. In some, solving/completing the game (or reaching riddles or additional information at the end) was the actual competition. Others, like the Spirit of the Stones, are really external treasure hunts (or competitions) with the game only unlocking extra hints.

        The “prize game” with the least actual “game” present is probably Artic’s Krakit (with its £10,000 prize, over $45,000 today). It’s little more than a slideshow of brain teasers, that could have easily be printed on a few sheets of paper. It’s not really a game and the puzzles, iirc, aren’t linked to anything. At least Alkemstone scatters its riddles in a game-like world and has an additional real-world treasure hunt element.

    • The C64/ZX graphic adventure Quo Vadis also had some riddles throughout its however many hundreds of screens (back when this was a major selling poiny). It’s been solved but I can’t remember did they give up the prize, a jeweled sceptre.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: