Circle World (1981)   3 comments

Ringworld (1970) is a science fiction novel by Larry Niven about a group (two humans, aged 200 and 20 respectively, a “Pierson’s puppeteer” known as being cowardly, and a member of the warlike-catlike race known as Kzin) that explores a massive artificial ring around a star, which has a habitable surface area of three million Earths.

From a 1988 edition.

I could go at length about the book but a.) despite winning the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, I’m only mildly enthusiastic about it and b.) despite being advertised as direct fan-fiction, the game at question today is only tangentially connected.

Circle World, the first adventure game of Bob Anderson, is another in the roster of Aardvark’s adventure games, which includes Deathship (dire), Vampire Castle (their most straightforward game) and Trek Adventure (their best game of 1980).

If you were hoping for more parser improvements since last time, I regret to inform you: no. The parser may have even degenerated. It still only looks at the first two letters of each word, with very little feedback given on commands.

It was originally for Ohio Scientific computers like the other games, but that edition isn’t anywhere on the internet, so I went with the Commodore PET version instead. It’s just BASIC source code (which you can peruse at GitHub here), so any differences are likely quite minor.

Like three of the other Aardvark games (Deathship, Trek Adventure, Nuclear Sub) the game starts on a vehicle headed for destruction, the difference here being the vehicle is an entire ringworld.

I’ve found the RAMJET in question, but I can’t examine it or otherwise interact with it.

I’ve got access to a bucket, sand, an ID card, a shovel (which I used to get the previous two items), a laser/flashlight, a rope, candles, and nipweed (whatever that is).

You can PRAY at the altar where the message-of-destruction is; the game asks what you want to pray for, but I haven’t found a response that causes anything to happen. Near that same altar is a BLUE BOOK

YOUR COMMAND? READ BLUE

A HERO’S NAME IS THE KEY
SPEAK IT OUT, I TO ME

and a GREEN BOOK.

YOUR COMMAND? READ GREEN

THE LIGHT IN THE FOREST

I assume the latter message means I need to bring a lit item to a “dark forest”…

…but neither the laser/flashlight nor the candles do anything without a match. (I suspect I am just using the wrong verb on the laser/flashlight combo.)

There’s also a section with a rope and a volcano where you can tie the rope to go inside, but you fall and die; the rope doesn’t seem to be long enough.

YOUR COMMAND? TIE ROPE
TO WHAT?? WOOD
THE ROPE UNCOILS AND IS 30 FEET FROM FLOOR OF THE PIT

YOUR COMMAND? GO DOWN

YOU ARE AT:VOLCANO PIT
YOU SEE
PLAQUE
YOU FALL TO YOUR DEATH

In addition to the headaches above, there’s a KZIN that will randomly come and scatter your items.

A CAT-LIKE KZIN HAS WANDERED THROUGH-TOOK ALL YOUR POSSESSIONS AND SCATTERED THEM

This appears to be the “pirate character” a la Adventure that other games have felt obliged to include, but here the items really do scatter all across the map so when it happens you have to scour the entire thing again. So far it is small:

The game advertises itself as “our largest yet” but that might not mean much, given the file size is only a smidgen above Aardvark’s other games (10K instead of 8K). Still, there are likely a few places I’m missing.

I’ll keep hacking at this for a while, but the opaque parser combined with the Kzin-scattering above makes for an infuriating experience. I’m happy to accept any advice; you don’t even have to bother with ROT13. Don’t hurt yourself, though — there’s a walkthrough out there for this one.

(Link for online play here. Click “Disk Directory”, then checkmark “load as BASIC”, pick “CIRCLE WORLD”, and “Load”.)

Posted October 21, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Circle World (1981)

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  1. Oh my… “n”, “north” or “go north” don’t work… “go to north” is the only possible way I’ve found so far to move around. Too torturing to me. You’ve my whole respect.

    • The only mitigation is the first-two-letters thing, which means GO NO, GO SO, etc. work.

      I can deal with the bad parser, I can deal with the held items being scattered at random intervals, but both at the same time is a bear.

  2. When you look at the laser/flashlight, you get the opaque message “FLASHLIGHT ON/OFF OR BLAST.” Those are actually instructions. To turn it on or off as a flashlight, the command is FLASHLIGHT ON or FLASHLIGHT OFF. To use it to shoot something, your verb is BLAST.

    Also, I have found that if you let the Kzin rob you while you are carrying the nip weed, it “retires to its den” with your stuff instead of scattering them. Going to the den, I found the Kzin asleep. If you take the nip weed it wakes up and kills you, but it seems you can take everything else (just leave the nip weed alone). I don’t know yet if this is a permanent solution, but I’m guessing the nip weed is essentially catnip.

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