Ulysses and the Golden Fleece (1981)   5 comments

Let’s get the title out of the way first: if you’re like me, you looked at it and felt slightly unsettled. Isn’t it supposed to be Jason and the Argonauts here? Allow Bob Davis (who collaborated on this one with Ken Williams) to explain:

VI [Videogaming Illustrated]: One last question. Why did you slip the Ulysses character into the story of Jason?

BD [Bob Davis]: I bastardized it because Columbia Pictures had made a movie about the subject, and I wanted to avoid potential copyright problems. Reality has to intercede somewhere!

He means the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts.

OK, fine, we’ll deal with a swap.

The interview clip above and this picture came from Videogaming Illustrated, Issue 3, December 1982. This looks more like Conan the Barbarian to me.

Amidst 1981, On-Line Systems (later Sierra) was busy at work on Roberta Williams’s Time Zone; in order to keep their Hi-Res Adventure series going, they released Cranston Manor in 1981, followed by Ulysses and the Golden Fleece.

VI: How did you become interested in computers?

BD: I’m actually a virgin — or rather, a rookie. I’ve only been at this a year. Before that, I sold chickens, and before that I was a professional musician. Not too glorious. Now I’m on staff at On-Line, where my job is programming, helping to come up with new games.

You start in a town-castle-forest area.

Head south and west and you reach a castle and are stopped by a guard.

If you leave without talking to the guard, you’ve softlocked the game, because the castle “no longer accepts visitors for the day”. Whoops. TALK GUARD lets you in to see the king.

The king tells you have “a legendary fleece of gold, far off to the north” and offers bags of gold and silver and a ship.

ASIDE: The Jason mythology has him as heir of the throne of Iolcus, but it gets taken by his half-uncle Pelias; Pelias sends Jason on what ought to be a suicide mission to get the Golden Fleece in order to get him out of the way. The king of this game gives the quest almost apathetically.

Here’s the forest:

There are two points of interest. A voice warns you about King Neptune, which is the only juicy plot-related tidbit so far.

There’s also a chest with a lock that looks “unfamiliar” but we can tote it along with us.

The city has a store with a nasty trick.

I mentioned getting a bag of silver from the king. The sign mentions you can pick seven items, but there are eight listed. So you have to pick the one item out of eight to leave out. I guessed the wood because it seems likely there might be a tree we could chop, but I have no idea for the moment.

The gold, incidentally, is used to recruit a crew…

HIRE CREW works while holding the bag of gold. It mentions that several men rush forward and “you think one of them is Hercules.” Is he incognito, pretending to be someone else? Is the eyepatch fake for a disguise?

…who you can then lead to a ship at the king’s private dock.

Here I was horribly stuck. Getting on the deck of the ship I could LOOK SHIP


but couldn’t launch. Verbs like EMBARK and LAUNCH don’t work.

I finally hit upon GO OCEAN

but that sufficiently exhausted me I decided here was a good break point.

One last bit before I close out: south of the tavern where you can hire the crew you can run across a thief who steals your chest (which I still haven’t unlocked). The thief dumps the chest out in the forest so you can get it back, but it hasn’t changed any (I thought maybe the thief would unlock it for you and leave behind a “useless” item which was useful in an adventuring sense, but no dice). I’m still not sure what the whole point of the sequence is.

Posted November 4, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Ulysses and the Golden Fleece (1981)

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  1. That’s one meek-looking guard with the spear, there. “Gosh, sorry for stopping you, but…”

    Castles? In ancient Greece? (And Neptune is Roman… and the people’s dress looks vaguely like medieval Europe… and the architecture of the town… oh let’s just move on.)

  2. Interesting that GO OCEAN worked. My m week I was a kid my dad and I got stuck here. I think he called Sierra and we were told the command was CAST OFF. So, design points for multiple outs, but really– why were these somewhat awkward verbs chosen, in particular?!

    • There’s a rule someone coined — I want to say Carl Muckenhoupt, who also comments here, but I might be wrong — that if the hints for a game give a solution to a puzzle with two solutions, it’s the harder one to find.

      My suspicion is that an author writes what they think is a clever puzzle, realize from testing it is too hard, adds the new solution, but clings to the clever one. (That doesn’t quite explain the situation here since it isn’t even really a puzzle! But I could see the original script showing CAST OFF in the walkthrough, with GO OCEAN added later, and that’s what was given to the people to consult for hints.)

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