PLATO Adventure: The Incomplete Guide   3 comments

I managed to eke out a few more locations on my map from exits I had missed, but I’m going to call this one finally cooked. As a guide for future intrepid explorers who want to get farther, I’ll try to lay out in detail everything I’ve found and all my maps.

Before that…

COMPARING PLATO ADVENTURE’S PARSER TO ZORK’S PARSER

It’s not even close. It’s clear PLATO Adventure is trying to emulate Zork’s “full sentence” mode — more words equals more power! — but I’ve seen enough oddities to say it’s only half-baked.

For example, one of the new locations I ran across was an altar with a book. If you READ BOOK the game gives a confused response; the only thing that works is READ ANCIENT BOOK.

What I’m guessing is happening — other than the game not really understanding the difference between an adjective and a noun — is that rooms with fixed items have the code specific to the location they are at. This means a command like JUMP can plunge the player in a pit where appropriate, but otherwise, the game is confused and act likes it doesn’t understand the command at all. We’ve seen this kind of half-measure with the Wander games which can lead to odd abuses, but essentially, it makes the interface feel much more inconsistent. There will always be misunderstood verbs, but having the game misunderstand a verb if the context is wrong makes the user experience as transparent as mud.

For phrases, that means it’s not really understanding there’s a “ANCIENT BOOK” or “BOOK” object in the vicinity of the Altar, but rather, it’s a hard-coded scenario where “READ ANCIENT BOOK” is grabbed as a whole phrase while in the appropriate room.

COMPARING PLATO ADVENTURE’S GEOGRAPHY TO ZORK’S GEOGRAPHY

There are spots, in Zork, where connections are tangled and confused, but the really odd bits are outside (where there’s a “full circle” around the house) and in a maze. The rest makes enough sense I can visualize regions in my head.

PLATO Adventure seems on the surface to draw on identical rooms, but the configuration somehow seems much more random.

Here’s an example; this is the region that gets opened after solving the Dam #3 puzzle. The “Above Dome” part presumably goes down further but I don’t have a rope. On the right side, the various “long” and “vast” halls are vaguely described and connect more like a spreadsheet than a map. (Jumping back to parser issues again, the game doesn’t seem to understand DIG once you have the shovel. I am guessing there is some room hardcoded to understand DIG after all, but it’s frustrating testing out a command where that isn’t known for sure.)

Despite the nitpicks above, the game isn’t terrible to play … it’s just I can’t make any progress. So, here is my summary; it repeats many points I made in earlier posts, but this is meant to collect everything into a single section:

You start outside, and can go down either a trap door or a mountain passage to get into the underground. There doesn’t seem to be any difference between the two, other than you can leave the trap door open if you take the mountain passage. That still doesn’t help with escape, though, because the trap door is too high to reach if you’re under it. I still have no clue how to return upstairs after going downstairs.

What I’m calling the “central area” has a troll (easily dispatchable by KILL TROLL WITH SWORD) a riddle door (solvable either through WELL, SHADOW, or LETTER E), an echo room (just type ECHO to get out), a maze (which seems to be unmappable, just stumble until you find keys, then stumble out) and the Dam #3 clone. If you go in the maintenance room at the central area and hit all the buttons in reverse order (red, brown, yellow, blue) then you’re able to turn a bolt on the outside with a wrench, opening a secret passage to the area with the shovel I mentioned earlier.

I’m stuck on a large rusty steel door that needs oil — you can find a pool of oil, and then “cover an item” with oil, but there isn’t any way I can see to transfer the oil over to the door. There’s also a pit with a plant that needs water, but I have found no water-holding container.

Connected to some of the central rooms is the “round room” randomizer from Zork. This shuffles you to a few other areas, like the temple…

…which has an Ice Room that threatens to freeze you if you hang around, and a rainbow that I can’t get a reaction from.

Another random exit takes you to mines…

…where you can find a diamond and a rusty rod. The game does understand WAVE ROD in all places but nothing has happened anywhere I’ve tried it, even in obvious places like chasms which might spawn bridges or the rainbow which might solidify.

This is most of the items I’ve found. The diamond and rusty rod are missing.

I’m still guessing there’s some interesting material hiding in the places I’ve missed, and I like the askew-Zork-world in a sense, but raw persistence is only going to get me so far. I especially welcome it if anyone can access the source code; there is apparently a way to see it instead of playing the game on the cyber1 server but you need (I think) the author’s numerical code (?).

Posted March 9, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “PLATO Adventure: The Incomplete Guide

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  1. (I don’t think I can do img tags in these comments, but let’s see:)

  2. OK, not surprising.

    The north-south connection between the West End Vast Hall and the East Long Hall is a little weird, but shouldn’t the map look something more like this? https://arethinn.dreamwidth.org/file/48049.png

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