Quest: Infinite Legs   17 comments

I took a heavy swing at the ICL version of Quest over the weekend, but I whiffed entirely.

Still a good rough impression of playing Quest. (Source.)

I can at least get into what’s distressing me. I think the tightest encapsulation is in a scene with a pink troll.

Blue are enemies, pink is the pink troll in particular. Still not complete.

The troll is one of multiple enemies lurking around the map. Two of them are particularly deadly: a smiling gnome from a forest and Billy the Gnome (who I wrote about already). I have a gun and some ammo and I am able to shoot the gnome, usually. (Random generation.) Billy the Gnome, after multiple tries, has still not fallen to a single bullet; I keep missing. Based on how obnoxious the RNG is in the game, I’m still not certain if that means a.) I’m solving the puzzle wrong b.) I just haven’t had the 5% chance or whatnot I need or c.) I’m supposed to avoid that room entirely.

The big problem is there’s a limit on bullets. The even bigger problem is that the limit on bullets seems to be either buggy, random, or both. I have gone up to kill the gnome, saved my game, then restored my game and went on to kill someone else with the gun and had multiple shot attempts. I have also restored my game and found when attempting to SHOOT the game says I am out of ammo. I suspect somehow ammo count is carrying over from saved games, maybe? The general effect is for me to actually want hold off picking up the gun/ammo in trying to make a “good save” with progress, but the problem is that one thing I’ve been trying to use to make progress will sometimes randomly drop me with Billy the Gnome and inevitable death (more on that in a moment).

The gun doesn’t work at all on the pink troll. It is first encountered in a long north-south “metal tube” (see the map above) and follows while either a.) taking your head off, which is fatal but rare (?) b.) gnawing your leg off, which doesn’t affect anything except your points:

The large evil smelling pink troll has followed you. You’re in the metal tube. An eerie blue glow on the ground resolves itself into the slender lines of a magic sword. The troll has just bitten your leg off. I shall grow you another one, but it will cost you on your score.

I tested and went for about five rounds in a row where I kept having the leg gnawed off and have it be restored by the game’s narrator with a point deduction. The sword, incidentally, works to kill the troll.

The troll has been felled with your magic sword.

As I said, this encapsulates a lot of the annoyances of the game all at once:

a.) mystifying randomness, including the possibility of just dying arbitrarily

b.) odd and still disconcerting treatment of points

c.) inconsistent object physics, as the sword doesn’t work on anyone else seemingly other than the troll, including a yellow ogre nearby on the map

d.) a slightly grating narrator meta-voice, even if I appreciate the innovation

e.) nearly nonsensical scene repetition; if you hang out, you can just get your leg gnawed off over and over

Regarding forced run-ins with Billy the Gnome, one discovery I made is that my silver lamp light source (obtained from the long-talking Bert the elf) can be rubbed in order to teleport between places.

P o p !!! A genie appears. “Hi” he says “want to go somewhere more exciting?” so saying, he claps his hands, and everything goes blurred. When, after several minutes, your senses return. You’ve edged into a room lit with flashing strobe lights and filled with people, rock music and cigarette smoke, Through the haze, you can see a neon sign proclaiming ‘Gandalf’s Garden : Discotheque and Hobbit Gifte Shoppe’. Nobody notices you as you stand on the edge of the floor. To the north, if your compass still works in here, is the emergency exit, and to the south you can see a doorway, beyond which there is a rope ladder leading upwards, Funny clientele, they get in here … Among the litter on the floor is a discarded London Transport underground ticket.

Another destination is the “bar of the Jolly Sailor” which I haven’t found any other way. After a few turns a “press gang” arrives and you land on a ship, and from there can get onto an island. I haven’t explored this part of the game as I’d like because one of the other destinations of the lamp is Billy the Gnome, so some x% of the time the lamp is just deadly.

So I have the combination of erratic occasional death, a highly unreliable saved-game system where I have to avoid certain items in the effort to keep them from bugging out, and a confusing and erratic game generally. I don’t quite want to toss things in the bin yet, because I’m still discovering wild ideas, like this room entirely in French, where unlike the German-room you have to type your commands in French to be understood.

There’s a French language book you can find nearby to help, but the sheer chutzpah of the scene is what I appreciate.

Maybe one more post in the future, but I’m not going to feel like I’m attached any more?

Posted August 21, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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17 responses to “Quest: Infinite Legs

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  1. Weirdly I managed to kill Billy The Gnome the very first time I tried. Anothe oddity is the dog show; I managed to carry the dog to the show and gain points for winning it but on all subsequent attempts it dies en route. This could well be the oddest and most frustrating text adventure that I have ever tried. The all pervading randomness makes it a serious head scratcher.

    • I think there might be some literal quantum approach going on, the box where the cat might be a live or dead until you look. With the rescue in the castle (the Quantum Princess), there might be a x% chance a person is in there, but maybe that chance is only determined when you actually try to enter the room in question. With the ammo, maybe it is x% chance per shot your ammo is depleted, but it only checks if your ammo is depleted when you are doing the shot? (or it is just saved games are busted…)

  2. I would say that over half of the puzzles are reminiscent of the bees in the bottle puzzle in Scott Adam’s Adventureland. There seems to be a greater than zero chance of screwing up in the majority of them. After twenty attempts I still can’t re-enact a successful denouement to the dog puzzle for instance. I’m wondering if a restart is necessary to purge the game.

    • I’m also wondering if prior save games somehow contaminate the variables, even if you aren’t loading a saved game? Wizardry 1 had a bit with a ring you could only find once, and then any other time someone went to the same spot, no ring. The version up on most sites for the longest time had the ring already removed from a prior playthrough.

      • Do you have a reference or some good key words for the ring in Wizardry? I was at first just curious whether it was something intentional or a bug, but I can’t find anything anywhere and now I feel like I’m in a Dan Brown novel.

    • Bees-in-a-bottle is deterministic if you solve it completely: you can POKE HOLE in the bottle to prevent them from suffocating.

  3. The game isn’t helped by the ostensibly screwball logic. The dinosaur, for instance, can climb a sheer wall and clamber through a small aperture to follow you but can’t descend a flight of stairs. If this was a deliberate choice by the authors it’s a pretty shoddy one. And if it’s another coding infelicity it’s also pretty shoddy. The perfect storm of frustration is the result.

  4. a slightly grating narrator meta-voice, even if I appreciate the innovation

    Ha, that’s not innovation — it goes all the way back to ADVENTURE:

    Oh dear, you seem to have gotten yourself killed. I might be able to help you out, but I’ve never really done this before. Do you want me to try to reincarnate you?

  5. This sounds like one of the few IF games where a program such a Cheat Engine might actually be useful… and I wouldn’t feel one bit bad about using it either when success or failure is basically random.
    The other time I’d consider such a number lock is that dang lamp in Zork, though that’s DEFINITELY cheating. :-D

    • DOSBox technically has save states, so assuming they work I might consider testing to see if I can “rotate” the RNG on a failed attempt. I have tried to manipulate RNG via just reloading saves and trying different steps and not had much luck, though.

      • I don’t know how these games would generate random numbers but I thought there was usually a time based component blended with the number sequence? Therefore reloading a state wouldn’t necessarily fix it. I know Cheat Engine (on Windows) works with every emulator I’ve tried which is great for obscure Commodore 64 or ZX Spectrum games that never had published POKE cheats.

      • Does that work with Windows 98? I’m not sure about trying something like that for Windows-within-Windows.

      • I don’t know I’m afraid, I’ve only used it with Win7 and up and never with something emulating Windows. I’m sure bytes are moving all over the place in Windows all the time so maybe it would be unreliable.

  6. Ha-ha – I remember playing with this when I worked on System 25 many years ago. I got some documentation from Keith Sheppard way back when, and I actually have a copy of the game DB (the ADATA file) and had started to port the game to Unix/Linux. I just found the stuff on a dusty part of my hard drive, and the code date is from 1992. I’m certain I haven’t touched this code in well over 20 years – perhaps an interesting side project just to make it available if folk are interested in playing it. I guess I’ll post it to github, once I get it compiled and see if it’s working. Of course, I’ll have to decipher how it all hangs together since I’m pretty certain that I’ve lost Keith’s notes.

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