The Institute: SOCIETY MUST BE PROTECTED FROM YOU   2 comments

(Continued from my previous post)

I had roughly the right ideas last time, but the Pearson parser remains ever-finicky.

I’m still puzzling over how many of the odd tendencies are things One Could Get Used To, and how many are truly bad design. To compare with a later game, Graham Nelson’s Jigsaw (from 1995) requires you in at least one spot to LOOK UNDER an object. Early on (before the moment where the command is required), there’s a rolling piano seat, and you can find something underneath if you MOVE or ROLL it. This gives an early hint that needing to LOOK UNDER things is required, but since it’s not a requirement, there’s still a little bit of ambiguity and the later moment can easily be missed. At the time it was written, LOOK UNDER was kind-of-standard but not really? I remember complaints at the time. Note that SEARCH, EXAMINE, and LOOK UNDER all gave different messages:

Vestry
The vestry once held surplices. Today, it holds a surplus. Debris, broken furniture, blown-in leaves, panes of dusty glass and mildewed cloth, all unwanted.

There’s even an old Victorian piano stool, but no sign of a piano.

>search stool
You can’t see inside, since it is closed.

>look under stool
There’s a charcoal pencil underneath the stool.

>examine stool
An old wheeled piano stool, wide and tall, with a hinged and padded seat.

The Pearson standard list of verbs has LOOK UNDER. I had tried it early (LOOK UNDER BED) but hadn’t seen anything and forgot about it — the message was IT DOESN’T SEEM TO WORK. Later, I tried it again, but just typing it as LOOK UNDER — the parser usually takes verbs only, and that especially feels natural when the parser is mostly a two-word one. (There’s even a bit later where you are forced to break a command into two parts, like Scott Adams, rather than type all four words as one phrase.) Yet, it turns out at the bed at the very start, if you wait until after the dwarf leaves, you can LOOK UNDER BED to find a mug.

What elements of me being caught by this are “my fault”, so to speak? I was cued in already to the possibility of LOOK UNDER, but that was only because it showed up somewhere in a previous Pearson game (I’m not even remembering where, exactly); there’s no “training moment” like in Jigsaw. I did make a full LOOK UNDER BED but apparently it was too early. Later, it changed — is it really fair that it changed? Certainly “IT DOESN’T SEEM TO WORK” feels like it is being in reference to the action itself, not that there was nothing useful to see. Jigsaw also had the virtue of being a full-sentence parser where it feels normal to type three words, whereas the Pearson parser breaks open 3+ words only in special cases, and really doesn’t seem to “understand” such sentences.

…that was a bit long for just one moment. In any case, I found a mug, which I took over to the padded room from last time (the one I got to by using ATTACK on the counselor) because I had meanwhile found another secret via a Pearson tendency.

Even though there isn’t any particular reason to, LISTEN will reveal a dripping sound. You can then LOOK DRIPPING to find there is water. I previously didn’t have a way to get the water, but DROP MUG lets the mug start filling with water, and you can wait to get thrown out of the room and the mug stays behind (the staff is very on top of some things and very apathetic about others). Then, you can go back and attack the counselor again which gets you tossed in the same padded cell excepted this time the mug is full of water.

From here you (and I) can go on to finally quaff the red powder from last time, but before I do that I’m going to mention another action in the padded cell — I found this rather later in my gameplay but I’d rather get this out of the way. I had theorized last time, remember, of taking a sharp object in the cell. I found a SCALPEL by doing LOOK SHELVES a second time at the place I found the bottle at before (yet another Pearson tendency, repeat those commands until they run dry, and then repeat them a little more just in case) and tried to CUT WALL and CUT PAD and STAB WALL and the like but got nowhere. I eventually found out from a walkthrough I could CUT PADDING (even though the actual word “padding” doesn’t show up in that form in the game, it simply mentions a “padded cell”) and get a rope that was useful later.

Enough noodling around, it’s dreaming time. Grabbing the bottle with the red powder and holding the water from the mug, I could finally EAT RED POWDER.

Just as a heads up, this gets very dense; this is a dream where anything can happen and while there is continuity of landscape, characters can block your progress without anything resembling motivation.

To the east there’s a cliff, which you can climb using the rope and find a telescope. Then you can LOOK TELESCOPE to find it out of focus, and see the Earth.

In yet another Pearson tendency (a good or bad one?) you can keep LOOKing at deeper and deeper levels, LOOK EARTH lets you see continents, LOOK CONTINENTS lets you see a metropolis, LOOK METROPOLIS lets you see a tall building, LOOK BUILDING reveals a billboard on the roof, and LOOK BILLBOARD finally gets a code (which I haven’t used yet).

Heading back the other way to the starting room, you find a corpse that wasn’t there before:

I haven’t been able to do anything with him yet.

Going through my standard rigamarole, I was able to LISTEN to hear a willow whispering, and talk to it where it asks where I am from. SAY INSTITUTE causes it to reveal a stair going down.

There’s the Counselor from the “real” world, who, as part of his speech, repeats the line

SOCIETY MUST BE PROTECTED FROM YOU..AND WE MUST PROTECT YOU FROM YOURSELF

Since he does what you ask, you can ask him to SHOOT the gun he’s holding and he’ll disappear

THE GUN FIRES..
HE DISAPPEARS IN A FLASH

After this encounter comes a stream with an owl.

The plaque referred to here is in the “real” world with the inmates, which says PEACE = DEATH. It will be useful in a moment.

By drinking the water, your skin changes color:

WOW!! YOUR SKIN TURNED BLUE..

South of the river is a statue (LOOK BASE reveals a tube of glue) where if I say the magic word I learned from the inmates last time (SHAFLA) a door is revealed. I didn’t make any progress otherwise so I assumed a key was somewhere.

Then there’s an encounter with the fellow above, who the game describes as — slur warning — as a “midget”. To be fair, this isn’t like the Earthquake San Francisco 1906 situation; it is quite possible circa 1981 not to know; here’s Roger Ebert in 2005 being informed for the first time the word is derogatory in regards to a review of Death to Smoochy.

In any case, he demands to know what death means, which you must respond with PEACE. This inspires him to the try to start kicking and punching, and you just need to attack back to dispatch of him. Dream logic, yeesh.

The next encounter is a log where CLIMB for some reason is the right verb (but I was used to it from, you guessed it, other Pearson games) except you slip, as shown above. You can take the glue before and either PUT GLUE followed by ON SHOES or simply use GLUE SHOES. (The full phrase PUT GLUE ON SHOES doesn’t work. Also note that shoes never actually show up as an inventory item.)

I finally became horribly stuck on a green man.

He kills you if you try to enter. In dream land this causes you to exit the dream, which isn’t necessarily bad! — and I’m guessing there’s other parts where you want to die. However, I still kept with the current dream and tried various contortions to get through, before I finally resorted to checking hints again.

Remember the river that changes your body’s color? If you keep drinking (remember, in Pearson-world, keep repeating things!) your body turns red, then back to blue, back again to red, back yet again to blue (you’d think you could stop here, but no), green, blue, red, blue, red, bright green. Green is useful, but bright green is really the useful one, as the bright glowing lights up rooms to helps solve a second puzzle later.

Being green is sufficient for the green guard to let you by. While I was hitting the hints, I also found out that after I had crossed the log, I could GO LOG (!) and find a SHOVEL and COPPER KEY hidden away. The key was enough to get inside the locked door from earlier…

…but I couldn’t find anything there (the room was all one color and hard to see) so I moved on to the area past the green man.

The village have other green men, and a hut with someone who calls himself RUDY BEGA…

I assume this is a specific reference, but I’m too exhausted at the moment to figure out what it is.

…and a dark shack where you can find a toolbox as long as you’re glowing.

Locked, can’t open it yet.

Finally there’s wall with a “dark hole” containing an “oracle”.

Using the right item (from my last post, I’ll let you work it out) broke open a crack I could enter and then wake up and exit the dream without dying.

I don’t know if there’s something superior to this method of exit than just dying.

To recap the open threads, because that only vaguely resembled a narrative, I still have to investigate:

– the corpse, who might just be there for plot reasons
– the room inside the statue that’s all one color and hard to see in
– if there’s something useful to do with Rudy Bega
– some way of opening the tooolbox

I suspect that I’ll need to visit other dreams and loop back. Just to be clear, all items carry over, so these aren’t entirely self-contained areas. I additionally yet have to use the code I found from the telescope.

Once I got out of the dream I went back to the red powder to try eating it again. I found three more dreams this way before looping back to the original one, but I haven’t explored yet. Some screenshots to close things out, though:

Posted October 14, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “The Institute: SOCIETY MUST BE PROTECTED FROM YOU

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  1. The artwork on these games is really rather remarkable for the time, especially when compared with the stick figures and crude drawings that Sierra Hi-Res Adventures utilized.

    Not sure if these were also Pearson games, but I recall that same sort of cartoony art style in the games Sherwood Forest and, I believe, Lucifer’s Realm.

  2. Yeah, Rick Incrocci illustrated a ton of other adventures and computer games and has an impressive resume.

    He has a website here: https://mmchost.wixsite.com/rickincrocci

    (I love the digitised photos of the authors… Could they look any more early 1980s? :) )

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