Archive for January 2021

The Tarturian: The Final Battle   7 comments

Into the breach we go. This post will only make sense if you’ve read my previous ones first.

From the cover of the game’s manual, via the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities.

Before approaching the final battle, I needed to get all the weapons in addition to all the treasures.

daggers, potions, swords, spears, darts, maces

Some of these are dependent on if you are holding certain treasures; for example, if you are holding Rexxon’s Arc (that was the one that required doing the USE RING/MAGIC puzzle) you can find the daggers in a random dead end.

This is after the vast majority of people will have everything mapped out. Just to be clear how annoying this is, here is a merged version of all the maps together.

I’m not sure what the expectations of the authors was — that the entire map get combed over again?

The maces are the same way — they are in a random dead end, and you can find them while holding the pendant (it’s more feasible a player would be holding the pendant by the time they first reach this location, but I hadn’t).

There are swords are at yet another random dead end, this time while holding the crown (which is likely one of the last treasures the player would find!)

Oddly enough, another place has swords. It’s in a location with a whole stash: darts, potions, spears, and swords all together.

This is the only “interesting” weapon spot, insofar as reaching it requires going past a slaver raid (there’s no way past it) …

After this I was out of strongmen and elves.

… and down a shaft, where there’s no way to get back up. I hence had one somewhat random puzzle left to solve, although my solution came from taking the magician I happened to have out and trying MAGIC in every room. In one of the rooms you find a bicyclops. (A cyclops with two eyes. Yes.)

From the source code

2917 IF A$ = “” THEN PRINT “YES THAT IS THE CARRIAGE RETURN KEY NOW LETS SEE YOU FIND SOME OTHERS”: GOTO 2910

2920 IF A$ = “SEX” THEN FOR I = 1 TO 5: XDRAW 38 AT 120,60: XDRAW 38 AT 135,60: DRAW 38 AT 120,90: DRAW 38 AT 135,90: XDRAW 38 AT 120,90: XDRAW 38 AT 135,90: DRAW 38 AT 120,60: DRAW 38 AT 135,60: NEXT I: PRINT “OOOGA OOOGA”: GOTO 2910

2925 IF LEFT$(A$,4) = “HELP” THEN PRINT “TELL ME ONLY WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH”: GOTO 2910

2930 IF LEFT$(A$,4) = “FIND” THEN PRINT “TELL ME ONLY WHAT YOU NEED TO FIND”: GOTO 2910

2940 IF A$ = “EXIT” OR A$ = “ENTRANCE” OR A$ = “LEAVE” THEN GOTO 8140

2950 IF A$ = “GOLD” OR A$ = “TREASURE” OR A$ = “WEAPONS” THEN PRINT “I DON’T SEE ANY”: GOTO 2910

(If you pick SEX the eyes move rapidly up and down, followed by OOOGA OOOGA. I will spare you a screenshot.)

After enough turns have passed the bicyclops helpfully states IF YOU SAY ‘EXIT’ I WILL GET YOU OUT so at least this isn’t a complete guessing game.

With all that taken care of, I first needed to restock my supply of elves and strongmen.

Urgh. This is the only thing money in the game is used for.

Then it was just the Tarturian to worry about. I mentioned I already found it last time. What happened is I had found some food for the yummy yakky (two posts ago, so let me reproduce the picture)…

…who, after USE FOOD, gives you a hint.

BURP THANKS.I TRIED TO EAT A SPIDER HANGING FROM THE CEILING ONCE BUT SOMEBODY MEAN PUSHED IT TOO HIGH FOR ME

Way back in one of the early rooms of the game I remembered a spider.

I tried doing the Strongman’s various maneuvers: MOVE unveiled the passage to the Tarturian.

THIS IS THE ENTRANCE TO THE TARTURIANS LAIR. IF YOU ENTER IT THERE WILL BE NO RETURNING.

DO YOU WISH TO FACE THE TERRIBLE TARTURIAN Y(YES) N(NO)?

This leads to the final showdown, which has no interactivity at all (as long as you’ve brought all the weapons and treasures).

The game then kicks to the Apple II prompt and ends by informing you that GOTO 10 will let you watch the whole sequence again, if you want.

Utterly, utterly, exhausting. Easily 80% of my gameplay was either a.) mapping, where I had to test every room exit since none are listed b.) trawling through the map a second time once I realized what was going on with the how the weapons showed up and c.) the logistics of a decreasing strength meter and losing party members. It was hard to find satisfaction even in the puzzles that had hints to them. But at least I’m done with it.

Posted January 14, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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The Tarturian: Ten Treasures   3 comments

I found The Tarturian. It didn’t go well. Could I just end the game here?

There’s just something stressful about this game, moreso than Oldorf’s. There’s a decreasing “strength” meter in addition to all the weirdness, and sometimes my party just dies without me understanding why.

To diagnose the problem generally, this seems to be another case of an author (or authors) having an easy game with a parser’s capacity for solving an easy game, followed by a harder game where the parser can’t catch up. Here, there isn’t even really a parser; the game’s method of parsing character commands where objects aren’t needed (except for USE) is not a “feature” as much as a “kludge to cover up the fact every command is bespoke”. Here’s a clip from the source code:

3560 IF LEFT$(A$,4) = “READ” THEN PRINT “I CAN’T IT’S IN GNOMESE”: GOTO 3540
3570 IF LEFT$(A$,9) = “TRANSLATE” THEN PRINT “STRONGBOX HIDES JEWELS”: GOTO 3540

There’s one section that involves three doors; there’s a chance opening open will reveal some gold, but there’s a higher chance opening one will reveal a monster attack.

There’s a switch out in a hall with no indication of what it does. What it does is cause a minotaur to escape its cage on an entirely different part of the map, and if you do this early (you’re going to do this early) you’ve softlocked the game.

Mind you, at least I had a good guess this switch could lead to a softlock. That didn’t make hitting it any more pleasant.

Sometimes slavers come along and just kidnap a bunch of your party. This happens at two fixed points I have found (hopefully no more) and it looks like one spot is avoidable, but the other isn’t.

I did eventually find all ten treasures.

Pendant of Bodil, Ancient Gold, Powerful Ring, Wand of Palx, Rexxon’s Arc, Scholl’s Crown, Marin’s Jewels, Kimmor’s Staff, Platinum Hand, Herc’s Elixir

Your party incidentally also needs weapons (I think?) to take on The Tarturian. They’re listed in the manual

dagger, potion, sword, spear, dart, mace

although I hadn’t found any until this session.

Let’s run through the treasures roughly in the order I found them. I already discussed the Ring last time and Herc’s Elixir.

Treasure #3: I finally found a use for the word WUCI which was randomly written on a wall.

WUCI here will free the spirit and yields the Pendant of Bodil.

Treasure #4: One box in the complex contains nothing except snakes.

If you have the Strongman MOVE the box instead of opening it, you’ll find Marin’s Jewels.

Treasure #5: Another box is also a trap if you try to open it. There’s some message about it being the box the spirit warned you about, which is supposed to be referring to the section earlier with WUCI, except there was no such warning (I checked the source code to be sure). This is supposed to be a hint that the Elf can USE PENDANT here and get another treasure (the Wand of Palx).

Treasure #6: Near those doors which randomly yield either gold or death there is a “magnetic vortex”. Sometimes one of the directions will have Kimmor’s Staff.

Treasure #7: This is where I started trudging over the source code in earnest. There’s a fissure where you can take the traveler’s ring and USE RING to magically jump over.

This was bad enough — the ring doesn’t generally work in most locations, and I didn’t really have an indication until this moment it might do something useful. To top things off, though, while there’s some rooms past the fissure (including that incident with the slavers I posted earlier) there’s no treasure past the fissure. You’re supposed to use MAGIC to jump back to an middle spot between the two sides of the fissure, which lets you walk over to a grave where you can find Rexxon’s Battle Arc.

There is a hint for this elsewhere. How fair it is I’ll let you decide.

Treasure #8: The battle arc is sufficient to defeat the Minotaur (the one you can get softlocked by if you release it too early) which lets you into a lair and a mighty caterpillar. Then you can USE WAND (that’s Treasure #5) to defeat the caterpillar and get a crown, and there is no hint for this part.

Treasure #9: You can then take the crown to an entirely different part of the map to find Scholl’s Bust. USE CROWN yields a Hand.

Treasure #10: Finally, there’s a “Pentagon Room” where using the Wizard’s cast ABILITY shows

A MULTI SIDED PASSAGE DOWN!!!!!!!

and some Ancient Gold, in some ways the most important treasure of all, with an ability I had to check the source code for. While you’re in the same place you find the gold (and only in that place) if you USE GOLD the party’s strength will increase:

This is absolutely necessary for winning the game — there’s no way to optimally get everything without running out of overall strength and dying.

I haven’t even talked about getting weapons yet (dagger, potion, sword, etc.) but I’ll save that for my final (?) post. Two of them are laying out in the open at random, but the other four require you to be holding specific treasures to find them and there’s no particular reason why. Again: stressful!

Posted January 5, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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New Documents Related to Crowther/Woods Adventure Unearthed   Leave a comment

Ethan Johnson has found some 1977-era material related to the release of Crowther/Woods Adventure; Twitter thread here.

The “release” messages are archived here.

In addition to a specific “release date” of June 3rd, 1977, it describes Adventure as “effectively a problem-solving solitaire game”, and includes some anxiety in it not really a computer science research project:

The program is not intended to be any significant advance in language understanding. About all that can be said about it in this regars is that one might be able to point to it as an example of the sort of ambiguities which can arise in even the most restricted universes of discourse. In particular, many difficulties arise from the structure of the program, which (with a very few exceptions) require that no word be both a noun and a verb.

There’s also some discussion of the possibility of commercializing Adventure: “It is conceivable that a sale could be arranged in which you might share, but it sounds a bit hairy.”

An aside in one of the messages also means that Haunt started development in 1978, not 1979!

My apologies for being sluggish to post lately; I’ve been swarmed with holiday obligations. I also was busy last week writing a post for AskHistorians commemorating the rollover to 2021, which means 2001 questions are fair game, and a certain heavy event.

Posted January 4, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction