Irvin Kaputz: More Like Icarus Kaputz   8 comments

One of my favorite unfinished works of art is the American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Agreement with Great Britain (1783-1784).

The artist, Benjamin West, did not die suddenly or get a creative block; the British representatives refused to pose for the picture.

This is a little bit what Irvin Kaputz is like. We have an adventure game left incomplete, but frozen in time at a particular moment and for — what might seem now, at least — a very unusual reason.

I did “solve” one puzzle since last time by poking through the source. By dropping the flag from the 18th hole of the golf course at the top of a pyramid, a crack in the pyramid opens up; you can use a lantern to go in and find a maze.

The maze hides a parchment (“IT’S ONE OF THE STOLEN TREASURES”), and a CLOSED STONE TOMB.

Past this point, everything is clearly broken. Brian Decker did some source-diving after my last post and found that fully 30 of the verbs don’t even work and just funnel down to EXAMINE. The HELP as mentioned in the instructions isn’t even recognized. While all the rooms “exist”, it is impossible to reach the entire map.

This is probably an example of a “private” game (like some of Roger Wilcox’s work), one not originally meant to escape in the wild. The incomplete nature is non-obvious at first appearances; bugs appear early, but serious bugs even in published work were not unusual for the time.

The author clearly had some ambitious notions about world modeling. In nearly every other game of the period, having MATCHES would mean they would LIGHT LAMP (as they do in this game) but they would apply nowhere else; here, you can not only burn items like a FLAG but they change form afterward into a BURNT FLAG. The water (with the GOLDEN ANCHOR I was never able to get) also affects objects, as the MATCHES turn SOGGY and the PARCHMENT becomes a SOGGY OLD RAG.

Unfortunately, the author ran straight into the dread TRS-80 16K size limit. If you’d like to experiment, go back to the source code from my last post, go to any of the PRINT statements, and add one (1) character. Then try running the code at Willus. The game crashes and refuses to load. Delete a character in any print statement (even a different one) and the game loads again. (The file itself is 13K, but given the “exactly one character” circumstance, they were formatting their disk in the same manner as on Willus.)

When critiquing old games it can be easy to forget the technical limits the people at the time were straining against. For example, I’ve gotten fussy with games that only accept TAKE but not GET as a verb (or vice versa). For taking objects, Irvin Kaputz understands TAKE, PICK UP, GET, GRAB, and REMOVE; it accepts LOOK, EXAMINE and DESCRIBE for looking at objects; and it ran out of space before it could add more. The programmers of many of the games we see from the era likely hit the same limit, but were humble and cut back.

This painting by Joseph Lange of Mozart is not unfinished in the traditional sense. The center rectangle is a finished miniature, and then someone later (probably but not necessarily the original artist) cut-and-paste onto a larger canvas with the intent of expanding it. The kludge is more obvious from a pre-restoration photo. More about this is at Michael Lorenz’s blog.

Posted April 16, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “Irvin Kaputz: More Like Icarus Kaputz

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  1. “By dropping the flag from the 18th hole of the golf course at the top of a pyramid, a crack in the pyramid opens up; you can use a lantern to go in and find a maze.”

    I think it’s pretty clear now that the author must be David Fox ;-)

    • Is there a specific moment you had in mind, or just the general feel of the sequence?

      • In Fox’s game “Zak McKracken” there is a sequence of puzzles that has to do with a golf flag and entering a pyramid (which contains a maze). The combination of elements sounded quite familiar to me, although it’s probably a coincidence.

      • I really need to get round to Zak sometime (I did get a GOG copy and have it installed, just need to find the time.)

  2. Britain did not lose the “Revolutionary War.” The then King (George III) continued to receive money from the Colonies but chose to end the military presence in them. It is worth an in-depth review of the Treaty Of Paris in 1783. It was no Russian Flag over the Reichstag.

  3. There is a flag of sorts in Zak McKracken – but it’s not a golf flag, rather a banner hanging outside a police station in Nepal. And it’s not used to open any of the pyramids in that game, but rather to help repair an artifact (though part of the artifact is found inside a pyramid).

    There’s also a puzzle involving a golf club, which you give to somebody to learn how to open a door to an ancient building… that isn’t a pyramid. The same person shows you how to use the repaired ancient artifact mentioned above.

    So definitely some similar ideas, but not a 100% correspondence. Though I do have to agree that David Fox is a good suggestion for a potential author.

    • You’re probably right with all of this, as I’ve reconstructed the scene from memory. I must have confused the golf club (you use that one as a gift, right?) with the flagpole – now I remember that it was used as a stand-in for a lightning rod. So yes, similar ideas is probably all that it is.

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