Time Zone: The Other Ages   17 comments

I’ve now done a survey of every single era and continent in the game. Oddly, except for the finale area, this means I’ve likely seen most everything in the game. There are a couple puzzles that gate off areas that are very clearly only single-room areas; in a good number of cases there doesn’t seem to be any rooms blocked off at all.

From Mobygames, a disk from the Japanese FM-7 version.

Just as a reminder, I’ve so far tromped through Prehistoric Age, Stone Age, 50 BC, and 1000 AD. Also, the game does make it clear from something later that the dates are approximate landing points; one time landing in “1400” there was explicitly a date given of 1492 (…betting you can guess already what that’s about…) so the time machine obviously is dealing in approximation. That means if a location is off plus-or-minus 100 years I wouldn’t call it an inaccuracy, but don’t worry, faithful readers: there are still legions of historical errors to nitpick over if you’re so inclined.

1400 AD (kind of)

My same map layout as before, with North America-Europe-Asia on top and South America-Africa-Australia on bottom.

North America results in me getting run over by a stampede of Buffalo. There’s also a ravine that appears to require some manner of rope or ladder or the like to travel over it, although I get stampeded before I can test anything.

There’s a herd of dodgy art in the game, but I kind of like this one.

South America lands us in the Andes (again) with a deadly rockslide (you have enough time to hop into a nearby cave)…

…and going down farther leads to a gorge that is (at present) un-crossable. I appreciated that the map wasn’t in a grid!

Europe lands you in 1942, where you can sign up for the crew of the Santa Maria. You explicitly have to say where you want to work (sails, hold, or galley) and I’m pretty sure only one of them is correct, because Game Design ™.

The correct option is to work the sails, because it lets you get up to a parrot and a telescope. Looking through the telescope lets you see a distance farmhouse, which you can’t otherwise find; then leaving the ship and going to the farmhouse yields an “iron bar” which is useful in 2082 AD.

For those looking to change the timeline, no, you can’t attack Christopher Columbus.

If you’re looking at this screen, I’m fairly sure you’ve softlocked the game.

I think you can take the parrot with you too, but I don’t have anything resembling parrot food.

Africa you land in a desert and then die from the heat.

Asia comes to a forest area located near to a “silk shop”. I was able to trade the rice I had gotten from a peasant in Past Asia for some silk. I haven’t used the silk anywhere yet.

That same continent has one obstacle remaining, that of a samurai. Of course, it is possible this is simply a trap and you’re supposed to avoid the place you get attacked? There are a couple deaths that definitely seem to be just for grins, but if there’s a turn pause before death (as happens here) I’m going with the assumption it is a puzzle rather than a premonition of later Sierra products.

Australia is a maze. Just a maze. There is nothing in the maze.

I wasn’t sure until I had the above experience, but I 98% now believe there are continent/time combos which are just absolute red herrings.

1700 AD

North America lands you at the Declaration of Independence.

Also, Ben Franklin is in his “print shop”, and you can’t go back to the back room if you’re not an employee, which suggests we get a job somehow? Also he has bilocation because he is simultaneously with the signing of the Declaration, if you compare the images.

South America is at the Amazon, and there is a river with crocodiles, and a village with “cannibals” who eat you.

The inside image is so bad I’m putting it behind a link.

Europe lands you at Paris in the time of Napoleon. Notably, just southwest of the time machine landing spot some thieves do a spot of robbery. I don’t know if there’s a puzzle there, as they can be easily avoided. Maybe you can later track them down and find a new object amidst their lair?

Napoleon is in a palace. The front is barred, so it may be the only puzzle in this area is to get inside.

The Africa landing spot is the Ivory Coast, where there’s a slave ship offshore and if you wander long enough you get shot by someone with a musket. There’s also a deadly snake that can kill you as well. (There’s a rustling as you are being followed, so I was hoping to time things so the snake grabbed the enslaver who is never seen, but I haven’t gotten that to work.)

Asia lands you in lots of snow, and you die of cold. There’s a bridge leading to a new place so it definitely is a puzzle rather than a trap.

Australia has quite a few grazing sheep, and a man on a horse who will shoot you if you come by assuming you are rustling sheep (not a bad assumption given how adventurers are). There’s also a barn with a padlock you can break with the iron bar from Italy 1492; inside there is a saw.

You can also take the padlock you break off with you.

2082 AD

The future is mostly boring paved streets.

North America, Los Angeles in particular, has as its only obstacle a locked house (and the boredom from mapping streets).

South America is a bit weirder. You land in Buenos Aires where it specifically says the streets are abandoned; I think the assumption in other places is that there are people that just aren’t depicted. If you wander the streets long enough you get shot by a terrorist sniper.

Europe, I’ve already discussed: you can get a rope from a runaway dog, and there’s a thief who stops you with a gun.

Africa drops you in Egypt again where there’s a dam in the desert. A guard shoots you for trespassing if you try to get by.

Asia is in Tokyo, which has a little variety with a subway that you can use to go to four sub-areas. One area has a locked warehouse, and one has a restaurant which requires yen to enter.

It feels weird doing an epoch-making jump across time and space only to be stymied by a lack of local currency and a locked door.

Australia actually looks kind of nice to live in! But the only thing to do here adventure-wise is stare at another locked door, at a house.

Honestly, the future era gave me the impression Williams was running out of ideas, or the company as a whole was running out of time. South America was interesting, at least, but I wonder if that’s another red-herring age.

Oh, and I did drop by The Far Future, where the Main Bad Guy awaits. I won’t do a full write-up yet but I’ll note the first obstacle is needing a light source, which I have yet to rustle up (I haven’t encountered any place to re-light my burnt out torch from South America).

So, that’s it for my grand tour. I am busy now making a spreadsheet listing each time zone as well as obstacles still to be overcome, and then I’ll try testing a bunch of theories. It does feel like (given I managed to squeeze in three complete eras in less than 1000 words) I’m leaving things out, but not really; there just are so many rooms that aren’t classical rooms in the adventure sense, just background fluff. You can sense the same sort of grid design in King’s Quest games 1 through 5 inclusive, but I think the difference with those is that they are packed with content; there are a few “just scenery” places in those games but for the most part every location has something interesting to look at or interact with. (If you’d like to make a more direct comparison, think of the “ocean” squares from some of those games; I remember Rosella swimming around empty ocean looking for just the right spot to find a whale or something.)

HOURS PLAYED: 5.25

Posted January 29, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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17 responses to “Time Zone: The Other Ages

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  1. Is the “”hours played” cumulative, or just this play session? Because 5 total hours seems like not enough time to do everything you’ve accomplished so far.

    • Cumulative.

      I know! I’m kind of weirded out by it. But a lot of these places honestly took only a few minutes to visit. The one that took longest was the pointless Australia maze which was more like 15.

    • btw, on the “puzzle solving” phase, and burning _so_ much more time now, heh.

      Did make some progress but probably won’t have time for a writeup until tonight or tomorrow. Definitely some (!?!) moments.

      • I’d love to hear your impression whether the puzzles themselves are more difficult (especially compared to other Sierra Hi-Res Adventures) or is it the sheer size of the game that makes it an “expert level” adventure?

  2. I remember Rosella swimming around empty ocean looking for just the right spot to find a whale or something.
    Yup, that’s it exactly; although I’m not sure it’s that the whale can only be encountered in certain spots, rather just that it’s randomized whether it will appear or not? (I always just swim in a straight line between the shore and Genesta’s island.)

  3. That interior pic of the “cannibals” is WILD. Imagining an era when that was remotely acceptable is the real time-travel here. The past really is another country.

  4. Apart from being bad art (the declaration of independence is even worse) I don’t see how else you could depict a stone age technology level tribe of dark skinned people. Basically every European and Japanese person in the game looks like a stereotype of some sort.

    • I remember reading once why Japanese manga characters are drawn with western facial features. The response was more or less that they’re not- they’re seen as Japanese faces by Japanese people. Perhaps there’s a learned familiarity with the racist charicatures of the west.

      • It sounds like people are objecting to black people being in a game at all. What exactly would a tribe of dark skinned cannibals look like on an early 1980s computer screen if not this? Are they wildly inaccurate as to what who might find living in a tropical jungle in 1700? The artist then must be racist against white people too because they look equally crudely drawn, and as you said in the previous blog, brown probably wasn’t available in that mode. White people aren’t actually Apple II “15” white either and nobody seems to mind that for some reason.

      • The distinction is that there is a history of racist charicatures of black people in American culture, and not a history of racist characters of white people. Three images were used as a way of dehumanizing black people. No such equivalency (with the same intent) exists for white people in American culture

        The images of the “cannibals” look uncomfortably close to the kind of black charicature dolls you can find in thrift stores in the south. None of it is good.

      • re: the Aborigines, their faces are drawn roughly on par with everyone else (note that the work process was to first put it on graph paper and then give rendering instructions, so it was technically drawn in “black and white”).

        The very questionable cannibal picture, on the other hand, has a feature not present with any of the other pictures: rectangles for mouths which clearly invoke the “giant lips” stereotype and do not show up on any of the other characters. It is very strongly connected to stereotypical images to a level beyond just art difficulty.

        The whole process had an 18-year old cranking out something like 10+ images a day so I think it’s more reflective of general culture than any desire to harm, but that is the exact point being made re: the time machine; 1982 is a point where someone still might make the giant lips without thinking twice about it.

      • “what who” -> “who you”

  5. I know this is a recurring joke, but can we stop pretending things devs said while promoting games as PR marketing role are undisputed truths?

    No, this game has not extensive research.

    Recently discussing St. Brides School with some colleagues I had to keep adding a pinch of salt to any statement or thing in the press said by Ms. Scarlett.

    Marketing is marketing.

    “Extensively researched” Mwuahhahaha

    • You have to take the broader context into account. 1982 was the era where software programmers (who often were their own publishers, selling directly to users) would take out their own 3″ ads in magazines as ordering coupons. Larger companies like Apple would buy a full page filled literally with paragraphs of informative info about the technical specs and advantages of their device. This was not an era of slick PR. That’s why the interview with Roberta strikes me as being an off-the-cuff ego stroke rather than anything premeditated. (Interviewer, never having played the game, suggests that it might be a teaching tool in schools. Roberta, never having thought of this before because her body of work shows she’s interested in building fantasy puzzle worlds, likes the idea and runs with it. It was a completely impromptu throwaway moment, and in hindsight completely ridiculous. The fact that the interview was preserved and that we can reflect on it 40 years later is really remarkable, but not because it was part of a sophisticated ad campaign.)

      • You are probably right.

        But, anyway, the word of a dev doing the press rounds should not be written in stone.

        This is not like when we say that Infocom has a strong Q&A department, that is a statement is proven and contrasted by plenty of documentation. We just cannot state the truth of a random quote, probably improvised like you said.

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