Quest: The Quantum Princess   8 comments

The PCL version of Quest is buggy in a way where it isn’t obvious if a particular glitch is really a bug.

System 10, the system Quest was programmed on, from Bitsavers. The original System 10 was made by Singer — that’s the same as the sewing machine company — before being bought by ICL.

To give a straightforward example: I mentioned last time a room with a dog show.

You are at the national elvish dog show. All around, all breeds both the familiar and the strangely novel are being put through their paces and judged by elderly and distinguished looking elves. The general show like atmosphere continues to the east, but there don’t seem to be any dogs up that end of the hall.

There is another room with an elvish fox hound. It can follow you to the room to the immediate west, but doesn’t like to go south so can’t reach the show (map below, the two pertinent locations are marked in blue).

Leaving the fox hound behind and then immediately going back north finds a normal, intact fox hound still waiting. Repeating the process has the hound still there, but is now dead.

The small but perfect specimen of a pedigree elvic fox hound is dead.

I originally thought perhaps I was missing some subtle clue that was causing this to happen (there’s a “ravenous man-eating orchid” nearby that I thought might be related), but now I’m relatively convinced the game is just being buggy, especially once I discovered the quantum princess. (Before going on, I should add that Roger Durrant who has been keeping up a long stream of notes in my last post, managed to pick the hound up with the verb CARRY and take it to the show for some points. I have been unable to do this; the game just claims what I’m picking up isn’t portable. It is possible Roger had some extra unmentioned object that is helping, but I’m 75% sure it’s just another bug.)

To reach the quantum princess, you need to head north from the Western town, the west to the front of a castle. There’s a cannon nestled nearby.

Assuming you have a cannonball and gunpowder (both just lying around elsewhere on the map) you can load the cannon up and then fire it. This breaks open the portcullis leading in the castle so you can sneak in and find a logic puzzle.

You are now in the main keep of the castle of El Numero the Wise, numerologist, extraordinary and tyrant ruler of these parts. In the comer of his office there is a large safe with combination lock and the following inscription:

if forty + ten + ten = sixty

then my key is onyx.

(No, I haven’t bothered to solve this yet, it’s clearly a number cryptogram, and you’re welcome to take a crack in the comments.)

Downstairs you can find a series of cells (see the map). One always has a skeleton, and two of them are sometimes empty. I say sometimes because one of the times I went through I found a princess.

You are in a small cell. In one comer, bound hand and foot with thick ropes and sobbing loudly is the (obviously distressed) figure of a beautiful fair damsel.

You can free the damsel who will follow you briefly before saying she has to go back to her family farm, whereupon she teleports off (I assume the idea is she “walks off” but game-mechanically she telports).

The catch is: I’ve only found the princess once. There doesn’t seem to be any procedural generation going on, and I haven’t traced any different actions I’ve taken through alternate playthroughs. It’s like the princess is simultaneously there and not there at the same time.

At the far north of the hall, rather than the door opening into a cell it opens into the vastness of space.

One portion of a screenshot just as a reminder what things look like on my end. And yes, the princess followed me into space and teleported from there.

You are floating too far away to get into the blue box. In order to move closer you need to throw an item at let Newton do the rest, but not any item; out of the inventory I had the first time around the only thing that worked without some sort of “I don’t understand that” error was my set of keys. I get the strong impression there is zero world modeling in this game, but rather everything is coded in a bespoke way, so the game can’t interpret the properties of objects in a way that allows any sufficiently hefty item to work. The only items that work are whatever the person doing the port happened to add by hand to their list.

It leaves your hand, and you start to float gracefully toward the phone box, until a few seconds later, you bump gently into it, You are now hovering just by the door to the phone box.

Inside the TARDIS (same description as before, including K-9) I was able to push a button and found myself warped into an empty courtyard with a minor puzzle; a plant crying for water. Where have we seen this before?

There’s also a rusty can with a hole and a puddle of water. You can FIX CAN to take care of the hole (with what? I don’t know, but it worked, and gave me no message) and then fill the can (it gave me an error message but I guess worked anyway) and get the plant to turn into a tall vine.

Your score has been increased for perseverance, patience, and attention to detail. Congratulations!! You are now atop the southern wall of the court- yard. Looking down, you can see that there are handholds down the outside of the wall. The vine has shrunk to its original size after its enormous effort.

Heading off the wall drops you back to an enchanted forest right near the log cabin at the start of the game. (The forest incidentally has a murderous elf, but I had fortunately blasted it with my gun before going through this scene so I didn’t have to worry about it.)

So, the whole purpose of that sequence was … points? I’m not clear if I missed something. Maybe a digging spot? I can say the game has a bizarre relationship with score — or at least I should say, a very different conception than I’ve seen from other games. Points can go up or down for actions that clearly are optional. For example, there’s a fruit machine that you can play, and eventually get a winning combination; this causes your score to go up by 15, but nothing else to happen. I have not verified but it is possible you can keep playing the machine forever to infinitely increase your score. Roger Durrant somehow got to 27,325 points at one point, and I’ve gotten to something abysmal before like -500 for reasons I don’t understand.

Most adventure games treat score as a sort of progress counter, with some points for optional puzzles, with the possibility of losing points for taking hints and the like on games close in spirit to Crowther-Woods. This game clearly is adding and subtracting points at the right moments but with no sense of limits, and the general feels is akin to an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? (“where everything is made up and the points don’t matter”) or possibly Calvinball.

Now, there are such a thing as treasures — or at least I managed to store one treasure — but the experience was odd. If you go down the stairs at the very start you can find a gold nugget; while it is “too heavy” to bring back up the stairs, you can do an alternate route up through the Enchanted Forest (where that murderous elf I mentioned is) and make it back to the Log Cabin. Dropping the gold nugget yields 20 points, indicating that is likely the right action, but in the process the gold nugget entirely disappears. I tried picking it up again and the item was gone. Perhaps it was getting “stored”? There’s no message, just the score going up.

Yes, this thing is an experience. I certainly will get at least one more entry — I haven’t explored the dinosaur area yet (reached via a different TARDIS) and I’d like to find at least a few more treasures, but based on my luck with the game so far there is no such concept as a maximum score and the player won’t even have a mechanism for recognizing all the treasures are found. Despite the extreme jank, I at least can’t say the game has been boring.

Posted July 20, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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8 responses to “Quest: The Quantum Princess

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  1. Just wanted to add I confirmed you can play the fruit machine as many times as you want and your score goes up infinitely. Whee!

  2. I am away until Tuesday Jason but I will take up the cudgels again from then. Congratulations on getting into the Castle; I have found the powder but not had a chance to use it yet.

    By the way I received the 27,000 points after throwing the elixir of life at the eyeless Zombie and consequently releasing the young girl. I am not sure if any other object will work.

  3. I’ve solved the FORTY+TEN+TEN=SIXTY puzzle. (Assuming each letter represents a different digit, there is only one solution.) The digits are N=0, I=1, F=2, S=3, X=4, E=5, Y=6, R=7, T=8 and O=9 – so ONYX is 9064.

  4. One thing I have noted is that my save files never work upon rebooting my pc. When I choose a slot to restore from DosBox-X shuts down, regardless of the config file I use. This isn’t the case with other versions of the program I have used.

    • I haven’t had issues like that but the game is glitchy enough it might even be an “authentic” bug. Argh.

      I’d like to update this week but I’m still swamped for Narrascope on Saturday so it likely will have to wait until after.

  5. No problem. I am going to restart today and use my map to see if I can find anything new. I will update as usual.

  6. I just quit from the game, saving a new config file as dosbox-x4.conf. Rebooted and started the game choosing the option to start with the new config file. Whichever saved game state I select shuts the thing down every time.

  7. This game really doesn’t make a lot of sense. I visited a beach to the west of a vast underground ocean whereupon “an enormous crab eats your boat.” Almost immediately “a kindly elf gives you a new boat.” Over and over again in a loop until you leave.

    And in the Elf Club of Great Britain: “The barman wanders over and says. You look like a nice sort. Have a drink on the house.” You cannot say thank you, OK or anything else. Then a few moves later: “The barman says, We don’t like your sort in here and hits you over the head with a bottle of whisky. As you are now dead, do you want to be re-incarnated?”

    There is too much of this sort of illogical behaviour. Beyond the bugginess, it is plain weird.

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