Creatures that Live in the Sun (1981)   3 comments

Meanwhile, the police saw me talking to him, came over & said, “Don’t talk to him anymore! He might be dangerous!”

But I then said, “Don’t worry officer, he’s my freind from the sun.”

The above is from a story Roger M. Wilcox wrote in fifth grade; in 1981, he used it as the basis of his 12th game (previously: In the Universe Beyond).

This continues the weird-science theming of his previous game, but rather that exploring a reverse-gravity planet, we’re on THE SUN.

You are in the engine room. Visible items:

Better-than-asbestos suit. Empty fuel line. Empty bucket. Strange dark goggles.

Obvious exits: East

We start on roughly the same ship as last time, except now we start with different gadgetry (see above) and we’re out of fuel. The suit has a yellow button which shoots out a cold ray, but it doesn’t do anything helpful in the ship. Heading back to the main control room and trying out the red button kills us:

Whoosh! The airlock opens.
The console couldn’t take the temperature!
The capsule disintegrates from the inside out!

2015 picture of The Sun, via NASA.

Before pressing the red button we need to press the blue one (covering the inside of the ship with a transparent cover) so opening the airlock (red) doesn’t melt us. White would take off, but we are told: NO FUEL.

When opening the airlock, it’s “too bright to see”, but the “dark goggles” suffice to adjust for that (nice touch).

You can GO SOLAR and be asked

Are you just going to walk through the solar flare?

and of course the right choice is YES. This takes us to a river bank with a “river of salt”. Going in I was able to fill a bucket with the salt, then FOLLOW RIVER to a

=Deadly gronk gronk=

LOOK GRONK isn’t useful (“You see nothing special.”) and there’s no way to just go by. (“The gronk gronk won’t let you pass!”)

Hang out long enough and “A silvery line extends from one of the gronk gronk’s fingers, and hits the photosphere.” Hang out even longer and you die:

A silvery line extends from one of the gronk gronk’s fingers, and hits you, piercing your suit!
The heat of the sun vaporizes you! You’re dead!!

I’m imagining just a giant hand with no rest of the body, even though that’s not directly implied in the description. I was (as was also typical with Universe Beyond) horribly stuck and checked for help, and found I could FEEL RIVER to unearth a “hyperdimensional eye” which is manufactured by “Medusa H.D. Company”.

Hmm. This is the reverse of the usual puzzle, but:

Yes, this time, we get to be the medusa. Going north, we have an encounter with a friendly alien who has quests for us and then hands off a gold credit card:

Wilcox has issues with exposition, but here, I’ll just suppose my universal translator got garbled.

Looking at the card reveals S followed by a smudge; you can CLEAN CARD to see the word Srill, which will be used in a moment.

The two quests (destroy a fighter, find a key) are the game’s only branches from linearity. For the fighter, nearby there’s the Solar Challenger, which was an actual airplane that flew over the English Channel in 1981.

You are in the Solar Challenger’s cockpit. Visible items:

Green button. Black button. Orange button. Landing field out window.

Obvious exits: West

Green takes off and lands. When you take off you find the “Gronk gronk fighter” the alien was speaking of. If you press the black button, a cold ray shoots out but the fighter evades it. The orange button requests a password — that’s just the “Srill” from the card. This activates SADAR which allows for better aim:

For the key, to the east of the alien there’s another “solar disturbance” you can try to enter. If you do this one, though, the disturbance fries you; you have to pour salt on it first. This lets you go inside and find a “large hyperdiamond”, although the only noun that works on it is “diamond”.

However, this is not the key yet. The yellow button that shoots a ray I mentioned earlier now gets used:

A ray of cold shoots from your fingertips, freezing the hyperdiamond extensively.

BREAK DIAMOND then turns it into a “hyperdiamond key”, and I’ll confess I was just coasting on hints at this point. Concentually the idea of needing a key and “carving one out” is nice (and one that has appeared in other adventure games) but there really is no inicator or hint here of needed actions; the “frozen hyperdiamond” has no description.

The key lets the alien (assuming you’ve downed the fighter as asked) open a nearby case and get some fuel.

With the fuel you can take off to safety and escape.

With this game (and his previous) Roger M. Wilcox got fixated on a “sequential scene” sort of narrative. It felt like I was locked in a non-interactive book where my goal was to solve a riddle to move on to the next page. Linear adventure games can work, but there needs to be non-linearity within the scenes themselves; ways to learn more about the world and the puzzles by playing with the materials. The vehicles-without-instructions somehow had this aspect, but there’s only so much fun to be found from realizing the red button needs to be pressed second rather than first. While there were a few items that could be examined for hints, I felt frustratingly disconnected from the objects of the world.

I still had fun anyway. Again, for emphasis: these generally were private games not for distribution. I appreciate the window into a young author’s experiments, and the sheer optimism required to adapt one’s work from grade school for a computer that wasn’t even out at the time the story was written.

The policeman then told the city that he was friendly & that all of the people could come back out again. Then all of the people came out & started making freinds with him.

Several minutes later, though, it was time for him to go back to the sun.

He then waved goodby to his freinds & was off to his space ship.

After that he had gotten into his space ship & was off to the sun.

As far as I know now, he is back safely on the sun.

Posted November 2, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Creatures that Live in the Sun (1981)

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  1. Interesting that he has relived his youth while porting that old aventures. Unfortunately, he could have used a JavaScript-only approach, instead of needing to install the .NET 4 WPF client, something overwhelming for that kind of graphics.

    • Most people aren’t inclined to dig out their old work from the 1980s and recompile it, so I’m grateful for anything.

      It might be worth asking Wilcox himself about if he’d think of a revisit if there’s enough interest in people playing on-line, though. I was going to wait until I was further along playing before contacting him, though.

    • Looking at his website, many of his older projects were written in some flavour of C or C++. It could be that familiarity in these languages led him to converting them to C#.NET as a learning exercise.

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