Irvin Kaputz (1981?)   8 comments

One of my lingering questions for the project has been what to do with games that lack both an author’s name and year of release. Where should they be placed in sequence? Without a biography or definite historical context to peg to, it’d be easy for these games to fall through historical memory.

But: we’re doing all the adventure games here, even though I was tempted to let this one slip away (for reasons you’ll see shortly).

I tagged this game as “1981” for a few reasons:

  • This was from a TRS-80 Model I disk. Tandy replaced the Model I with the Model III by 1980 and the number of Model I-specific games started to decline.
  • In archaeology, when an artifact can’t be dated based on its own properties, it helps to look at the layer it came from and if anything nearby can be used as a date instead. At Ira Goldklang’s site where this was first archived, the disk collection it was in had one program each from 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982.
  • It’s a treasure hunt with *asterisks around the names of treasures* (13, in this case, hidden by the “thief-eccentric” Irvin Kaputz). We’ve only had 3 and a half treasure hunt style adventures in 1981 (Inca Curse, Miser, Chambers of Xenobia, and I’m counting Hezarin as half) which puts the percent roughly at 20%; this means in 1981 the style is still around but starting to fade out as a plot device (compared to around 40% of games the year before, and more than 60% the year before that). If we’re playing the odds, 1981 might even be an overestimate.
  • The title screen has the “I am your puppet” phrase which started to be less common after 1981.

Still, I want to emphasize this is a straight guess, and there’s nothing preventing the game from being from 1987 or some such.

The parser of Irvin Kaputz is bizarre to the extent I was unclear if I was seeing bugs or “intended” messages. For example, UNLOCK DOOR at the screen above leads to


The game was thinking UNLIGHT and only looking at the first three letters of the word. But then, I tried OPEN DOOR


which led me to suspect the verbs were mismatched and not going to the right actions. After a bizarre scene with a robe…

…and the fact that the HELP command mentioned on the title screen from the top of this post doesn’t even exist, I decided this was one of those adventures where studying the source code was going to be part of the challenge.

Before I get to the source code, let me lay out what I’ve managed to reach:

Out in the open at the start there’s a *GOLDEN CALF* and *JEWELED FRUIT*. The northwest corner of the map has a golf course where a *RUBY* hides within the 18th hole, and in the sea next to a boat there is a *GOLDEN ANCHOR*. I haven’t been able to get out of the sea once I’ve gotten in.

The boat itself has some MATCHES which I can use to light a RUSTY OLD LAMP, but I haven’t been able to get into any dark places and the lamp has otherwise not been useful.

Other than the LOCKED DOOR at the start I haven’t been able to get in, there’s also a CLOSED GATE (ditto) and a DRAWBRIDGE with PORTCULLIS (same).

I’ve put the source code here. If you want to test it out, you can go to the Willus site I use and pick a random BASIC program (like this one, Election Simulator 1980), cut and paste the source code, then hit “Emulate edited program”.

A few observations I came up with based on the source:

  • I originally thought the game only understood GO NORTH and so forth fully spelled out, but the abbreviations N, S, E, W, U, and D are in; they need to be typed with a period after them. I’ve never seen this before in any adventure game, and is distinct enough if I ever see it again I will suspect the game is somehow linked to Irvin Kaputz.
  • There’s a message about LEAVE YOUR TREASURES HERE AS YOU FIND THEM that I haven’t come across in the game proper; I suspect I haven’t been to the right room yet. The game’s SCORE command says I have so far recovered 0 treasures.
  • The game has weirdly detailed rules for burning things that aren’t the lantern. You can burn the robe (you die because YOU BURN WITH IT), the flag at the 18th hole of the golf course, and a parchment which I haven’t found yet.
  • The I SEE NOTHING VERY SPECIAL message is coming from the game defaulting to an item’s EXAMINE description if an action isn’t done. That still doesn’t mean the actions aren’t broken, but this might be quirky game design rather than a bug.

What I haven’t been able to do as of yet is make progress. This is partly my tentative desire to not completely spoil the game — I haven’t line by line tried to see what verb might apply to the gate, for instance — and partially because I was frankly hoping/expecting to find a simple bug due to a character corruption (or something similar) that doesn’t seem to be there.

I’m also willing to call this one “done”; I’ve squeezed out some interesting information regarding the movement and detailed arson abilities, but I don’t know if Irvin Kaputz has anything else left to give.

Posted April 15, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “Irvin Kaputz (1981?)

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  1. Digging through the code because… why not? I’ve only populated the data map so far and have noticed a couple of things.


    There’s definitely at least one bug there. Line 520 should be M$(63). As it stands, it’s overwriting the “It sinks to the bottom and is lost!!” message, which presumably occurs when you drop an item while swimming. That’s pretty diabolical actually — leave your treasures underwater as you find them.

    The game also definitely has two verb entries for UNL, so it’s probably providing a wrong response at some point in the game when the parser fails to differentiate the two.

    • Also from checking the source: If you drop a flag on the top of the pyramid (it’s on the map) you open a “crack” in the pyramid. That’s pretty random.

      This leads to a maze where I found a parchment (E.D. from the first room) and a burial chamber (S.S.W. from the parchment room).

      It has a SIGN but trying to read it just says THERE’S WRITING ON IT and trying to OPEN TOMB gets THERE’S A PICTURE WITH A PHAROAH ON IT.

    • Right, I should have read your entry again. Clearly the UNL bug reared its head right away with the UNLock vs UNLight confusion.

      I also think I’ve found another problem in line 1710 where the noun to get into the cottage (location 3) is SEA. That noun is already checked two lines before that, so I’m not sure there’s any way to actually get into the cottage. I’m not sure what the right noun choice would be — the gate maybe? It’s the object in the meadow near the cottage. If so, the noun check in line 1710 would need to be 36.

      Either way, this game is starting to look pretty busted.

  2. You can burn the robe (you die because YOU BURN WITH IT)

    I could see this if you had taken the robe because the assumption could be you’re wearing it, even if that’s not made explicit, but does that happen if you haven’t taken it? Noxious fumes? God is pissed off at you burning church accoutrements and decides to return the favor?

    • You can’t even take the robe. It gets the “It won’t budge” treatment as seen in one of the screenshots.

      I also just realized that there are 30 verbs in the game (including lock/unlock, read) that aren’t even implemented in the code. It’ll just fall through to the look/examine/describe case instead, which explains why you don’t get anything useful when you try to read an object with a message.

      There’s some interesting code in a different part about cutting your hand on the glass from the broken lighthouse lens (and then dying from blood loss 10 turns later), but as far as I can see it’s never triggered, and the “I cut my hand” message is mapped to trying to take the sign in the burial chamber that Jason mentioned.

      So yeah… definitely incomplete.

      • I got “it won’t budge” when I tried to take the sign, but it might be mapped on a more specific verb (it looks like you can GRAB or PICK UP or GET or TAKE).

        I’m probably going to be making one more post just because the incompleteness (and the reason why it was incomplete, which turns out to be very clear) is oddly fascinating.

      • I’ve seen some gnarly hand cuts from broken glass, but managing to accidentally slash one’s wrist while picking some up is something else.

      • There are 5 verbs for getting an item (the last is REM — not sure what that’s supposed to be… REMOVE?), but they all go to the exact same routine in the code.

        I thought that the sign would lead to the “I cut my hand” message because of the first clause of line 1330:
        1330 IF N=38 THEN PR=15

        Noun 38 is the SIGN and PR 15 is the “I cut my hand” message, but you’re right. Line 1240 will make sure we go to “It won’t budge” for the sign without hitting the routine containing line 1330 at all. Incidentally, they probably put noun 38 here because the broken glass is the 38th element of the OBject array, but the Nouns are all shifted by six positions to add N/S/E/W/U/D to the list.

        Also, not that it matters, but I’m wrong about the LEAVE YOUR TREASURES HERE statement. It does appear to belong at 62, but the “It sinks to the bottom and is lost!!” message should be shifted to position 63 when the M array is initialized. That way it’ll display properly when you drop stuff in the water by the boat. Message 62 isn’t used anywhere, but I’d guess it’s supposed to be the writing on the robe since the score changes when you drop treasures on top of the altar.

        Anyway, looking forward to reading your conclusions on this one.

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