Ferret: This Building Has a Grade 5 Security Rating   15 comments

(Continued from Part 1)

While this game positions itself explicitly in the gameplay realm of Zork, mainframe Zork only had a smattering of traditional plot, a sort of after-the-fact info-dump at the very end. Ferret has plot from the very start, interesting moments of world-building, and an overarching mystery.

Inside a Data General Nova 1200 from this video.

After pushing open the lid to the “Twilight Room” you awaken in, you find a two-room area, with a Resuscitation Chamber next to a Air Conditioning Room. The plaque indicates you entered your slumber back in 1963 and now are awake in (probably?) 2083.

Resuscitation Chamber
This room contains a number of box-like machines. There is a door to the west. To the left of a display are three illuminated buttons, one red, one orange, one green. In the centre of the room, atop a metal plinth is a large chest. The lid of the chest is closed. Fixed to the side of the chest is a brass plaque.

There is a large box here

The large box contains a crystal sphere. Breaking the crystal sphere means death.

The sphere shatters into a zillion pieces, liberating a strange misty vapour which starts doing funny things to your nervous system. You appear to be in a zero survivability situation as your brain finds the off button.
You’ve curled up your toes.

Phase 1 (Awakening)
Mode: Normal
You have scored 10 (out of 1670) points in 79 moves.
Rooms visited: 12. Rank achieved: Dense.

There’s a lot of colorfully described death in this game.

Of the buttons (red, orange, green) the red one kills you as it opens a door to the west leading to your death. What you can do instead is press the orange button, letting you pull a lever in the Air Conditioning Room, then letting you press the green button and open the door safely.

-> push green
The door slides into the west wall with a hiss of escaping air.
-> w
Chemical Store
You are in a cool dark room originally designed for the long term storage of
chemicals. Unfortunately the storage racks are nearly empty. Above the eastern
exit is a flashing sign.

There is a green bottle here
There is a brown bottle here
There are some labels here

This opens the map up a bit more:

There’s some scenery painting and a lot of items to deal with, but before I get into any of those, I have to bring up this in-joke:

Computer Room
You are in a room containing lots of useless ICL computer equipment (what other sort is there?).

(Remember, this is the UK division branch, and ICL was another minicomputer maker at the same time so was their direct competition. I recently wrote about ICL’s game Quest but didn’t finish because the port was buggy. Still hoping either the DOS or CP/M version surfaces one day.)

Back to the regular part of the game, you can pick up a gaggle of objects, some of them with different weights (that is, for example, it appears the rope ladder needs to be more or less carried alone):

a green bottle (with liquid), a brown bottle (empty), a step ladder, a coil of rope, a shovel, some steel drums, a crystal sphere, some labels, a metal hook, a slim candle, a match

To the west (at the “stairway” on the map) it is dark, so the only way to move forward is to use the match and light a candle (which has a short life) or more easily, just turn on a generator.

You are in a large square room. Near the south wall is what appears to be an electrical generator. On the side of the generator are two knobs, one red and one green.

Note that there is reason to want one room on the second floor to be dark, so this isn’t just an automatic case of turning on the lights and forgetting about it. Before describing that floor, let me mention one other obstacle:

Maintenance Room
You are in a small dusty room. There is a large steel plate set in the floor. There is a small opening near one edge of the plate. The plate is closed.

The plate is locked. The “opening” seems promising but I haven’t been able to get anything to work out — I’d theoretically like to reach in and feel for a locking mechanism on the other side? I might be visualizing it wrong and the “opening” is only very small, but this is all the description you get.

There’s only one thing wrong with that sentence. The words.

(Aside: One of the norms of this game is that, similar to Cambridge games like Hezarin, examine is mostly a superfluous word. It works as a synonym for “read” in places but otherwise everything that you see is what you get. I of course am still going to keep examining everything constantly out of habit.)

Here’s the map including level 2. (Level 3 is blocked off by debris, so just turning on the lights doesn’t help get to it.)

A “filing room” has a purple folder with a piece of environmental plot.

It appears our last name is “Darkins” but the game is non-specific about a first name, probably to allow ambiguity to gender. Most of the games from this early time period had a non-specific character (AFGNCAAP: Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally-Ambiguous Adventure Person) so it’s always interesting to see at least a little snipped of character in. Modern games tend to be an all-or-nothing affair, since you can see the character, but text games allow a bit more flexibility and can be at the halfway point: some things are defined, some are left open to the player. (Or maybe: there is much more going on, and it will get revealed throughout the game. We’ll see?)

The second floor also has a photography room. This is where being dark is helpful.

Dimly-lit Room
You are in a dimly-lit room. In front of you is a wooden bench, above which is
a shelf. To your right there is a sink. Above your head is a length of frayed
string hanging from a rusty metal dome. The only exit is an imposing steel
door to the north.
Exits: N— ——– —
There are some interesting objects here:
a small beaker
which contains
some water
a plastic canister
a stained leaflet
-> read leaflet
The leaflet reads as follows –

Absolute darkness is essential
1. Use five parts water to one part developer.
2. Use ten parts water to one part fixer.

I have no doubt that the green bottle’s mysterious liquid is either developer or fixed, but I don’t have a second mysterious liquid to be the other portion. I also have no way of getting exact ratios like 5:1. I tried pour liquids between containers a while but it doesn’t give me measurements nor have statements like “you can only pour a part of this because the beaker is too small” invoking one of those water pouring puzzles. Still put 60-40 odds there will be a water pouring puzzle here, but I’m missing some items to be able to make things work. This does mean the candle should definitely be saved for later, when I have to shut the generator down in order to make the darkroom work.

Moving on:

You are in a brightly painted room. Each wall of the room is a different colour. The north wall is white, the east wall yellow, the south wall black and the west wall blue. There is a pile of debris in the middle of the floor. There is a hole in the ceiling.

I tried taking the rope, hook, and rope ladder and making various tosses, but my strong suspicion is that you drop the rope ladder from the top, having arrived to the third floor — in other words, this is a bit of geography that gets looped around to, as opposed to something that gets used right away.

You are in a featureless corridor with a large strong door to the east.
Exits: NS-W ——– —
There is a camera-like object mounted high out of reach on the wall to your left. As you entered, a red light on its side began to wink.
-> n
Security Room
You are in a room containing surveillance equipment. Mounted above the smashed central control panel are a number of television monitors. The monitors appear to have been wrecked, however one of them still seems to be functioning. To the right side of the panel is a slot. There is an armoured door to the west. There is a metal plate above the door.
Exits: -S– ——– —

Two important pieces here:

1.) The camera starts tracking as you enter the east end of the corridor. After five (?) turns it finds you and you get fried by a mega-death laser. Given the game’s structure I suspect that means in order to defeat the camera’s mechanism you need to push things to the limit; that is, make two passes by the camera, which gives you enough equipment / knowledge / whatever to stop the security system.

2.) The Security Room to the north requires something for the slot. Oddly I haven’t been able to examine the monitor that is functioning, I don’t know if I’m using the wrong verb? EXAMINE MONITOR just gives “They appear to be monitors.” which is not terribly helpful.

Heading past the camera to the south yields a room with a window, so you can climb outside to a fire escape.

Going up reveals a balcony “just out of your reach” and I suspect this is where you actually climb up to the third floor, I just haven’t tested enough things yet. Going down leads to some “Grounds” where around the back you can find some wooden oars (?) and in the front you can find a signpost.

You are standing on a large tarmac circle in the grounds of a large building. It is just possible to discern a large H painted on the tarmac. There is a strong door to the west which is blocked by a pile of rubble. There is a wooden stake set in the ground near a small gap in a continuous high fence to the east. There is a signpost here.

The H suggests perhaps you’ll find a helicopter later. Trying to sneak out through the east is fatal:


You feel as though you are floating. In fact you are falling headlong over a cliff. As you see the rocks below approaching at an ever faster rate your totally uneventful life flashes before your eyes in a nanosecond. Splat!

I’m afraid you’ve kicked the bucket.

So to summarize, my obstacles are:

a.) security camera

b.) security door

c.) photography room (maybe needs to be later anyway)

d.) locked panel on first floor

I don’t know if the cliff really counts as an “obstacle” — I think the intent is you somehow escape the complex in a different way. But the various information sources on the game imply you eventually escape and start searching for survivors of the post-apocalypse.

Speaking of: what happened? Why is the building abandoned but the power was left going so you could still survive? Did you really go through the entire 100 year process or is this earlier in time? There’s no treasure-hunting here; rather unusually for one of these giant mainframe (er, micro-computer) games I’m interested in what’s going on as a plot, rather than just hoping for good puzzles.

For those who want to try this game and join in, my bare-bones version is still up. (TIP: Run the FERRET.BAT file, NOT the EXE file — when you die it otherwise kicks you out. If you die with the BAT version you can type FERRET to start the game again and the death message won’t disappear before you can read it.) You are welcome to suggest actions in the comments even if you aren’t playing. The only thing I’ll say is if you know an answer (that is, you’ve played ahead and confirmed something) to put your text in rot13 encryption (use this site). I’m honestly going to be mostly open for back-seating here — this is a plenty long enough game to not make things harder — but I still may want to wait a little seeing a solution if I’ve got a puzzle idea still to test, plus some of the other people reading may not want the spoiler themselves.

Posted October 7, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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15 responses to “Ferret: This Building Has a Grade 5 Security Rating

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  1. I’ve gotten a bit farther (not much, but a bit – I think my highest score so far is 60 points?). I’ll ROT13 just two things for now: the first is regarding something that’s been incorrectly visualized, and the second is an observation I’ve made about the Maintenance Room plate-and-opening (which puzzle I haven’t yet solved).

    1. On the visualization issue (the following two observations are reminders of things you’ve already seen):
    – Vg’f abg n *ebcr* ynqqre. Vg’f n *fgrc* ynqqre.
    – Bar bs gur ireo sbezf gung GRFG gevrf vf “CHG HC.”

    2. On the Maintenance Room plate-and-opening:
    – Vs lbh chg gur ubbx va gur bcravat arkg gb gur zrgny cyngr, naq gura YBBX VA BCRAVAT, gur tnzr fnlf “gurer vf n ubbx cebgehqvat sebz gur bcravat.” (Vg qbrfa’g fnl guvf nobhg nal bgure vgrz V’ir orra noyr gb chg va gur bcravat.) Vs lbh gura CHYY UBBX, gur tnzr fnlf “Gur ubbx pbzrf njnl va lbhe unaq.” Fb sne V unira’g sbhaq n jnl gb znxr shegure cebterff urer ohg gurfr zrffntrf znxr zr fhfcrpg gurfr ner fgrcf gb n fbyhgvba. (V gevrq oheavat gur pnaqyr naq trggvat gur tnzr gb yrg zr przrag gur ubbx va cynpr jvgu jnk, naq vg frrzf gb erpbtavmr “jnk” nf n jbeq, ohg bgurejvfr guvf qvqa’g trg naljurer.)

    • huh! got deceived by this bit:

      The ladder stands momentarily, wobbles and then falls to the ground.

      felt like it was just joking with me a little

    • Did the stuff with 1.

      Opened the panel (re: 2). It isn’t as complicated as you’re making it. You’ve clearly got somewhere I haven’t, didn’t make it 60 points yet.

      • Yup, I’ve gotten the panel opened now as well, which (ROT13’d for other players) frrzf fbzrguvat bs na nagv-pyvznk (ng yrnfg fb sne).

        I’m now primarily grappling with… let’s just call it a very familiar set piece. I anticipate you’ll know what I’m talking about as soon as you see it yourself.

      • I think I know what you mean by the set piece.

        V pna FYVQR CNEPUZRAG HAQRE QBBE gb chg n cncre qbja gurer

        V pbhyq chg gur ubbx va gur xrlubyr naq V urne n pyhax ba gur bgure fvqr

        ohg gura trggvat gur cnepuzrag onpx qbrfa’g tvir zr n xrl, yvxr gur pynffvpny chmmyr jbhyq fhttrfg

        nz V qbvat vg jebat?

      • Yup, I’m having the same experience as you, and haven’t cracked it yet.

        Given some of the disparaging things the game has to say about Zork (try “zork” as a command a few times), it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re supposed to do something *different* than the classical solution. But I’ve no idea yet what that might entail.

  2. I hope to be back in London on Sunday and I will try and play this as I have some free time. I dipped my metaphorical toe into it a while back but I will download the latest version that you have put up. Sounds like a Warp special.

  3. This game looked so intriguing that I decided to give it a try.

    I’ve found a way past the panel, and can confirm Jason Dyer’s encoded remark above. Lbh whfg unir gb chg gur ubbx va naq ghea vg. Cercner sbe qvfnccbvagzrag.

    I’ve managed to develop the photograph as well.

    Instructions for developing:
    Znxr fher gur trarengbe’f ghearq bss (erq fjvgpu), tb vagb gur qnexrarq fgnvejryy, cbhe jngre sebz gur ornxre vagb gur pnavfgre, gura cbhe gur lryybj syhvq sebz gur terra obggyr vagb gur fnzr (bcravat gur ynggre svefg). Pybfr gur pnavfgre, fb gur cubgb jba’g or rkcbfrq gb yvtug (V guvax vg tbrf onq nsgre n pbhcyr gheaf jura rkcbfrq gb yvtug, rira nsgre lbh pna ernq vg.

    Instructions for its use after you’ve done so:
    Tb onpx gb gur trarengbe naq ghea gur terra xabo (juvpu gheaf ba gur yvtugf), gura urnq gb gur frphevgl ebbz. Bcra gur pnavfgre, gnxr gur cubgb, ernq vg, gura chg vg ba gur fybg. Nsgre gung lbh pna bcra gur jrfgrea qbbe.
    Gur ovttrfg ceboyrz jvgu guvf gung V’z snpvat abj vf gung gur pnzren jvyy fcbg lbh nsgre lbh cnff vg rabhtu gvzrf. Bapr vg qbrf fb, lbh qvr, fb lbh unir gb or irel pnershy nobhg tbvat onpx naq sbegu orgjrra gur frphevgl ebbz, gur pbeevqbe, naq gur erprcgvba unyy. Gurer unf gb or n jnl gb ghea gung guvat bss.

    As for the studio:
    Hfr gur fubiry gb “zbir” gur qroevf, gura lbh pna fgnaq gur ynggre hc naq trg vagb gur ebbz nobir.

    I haven’t yet had any success using anything I’ve found as a result of the solutions above.

    • Intriguing. I managed to develop the photo using a slightly different sequence of actions:

      Tb gb gur qnexebbz, cbhe gur yvdhvq sebz gur terra obggyr vagb gur fvax, cbhe gur jngre sebz gur ornxre vagb gur fvax, pybfr gur qbbe (guvf znxrf gur ebbz qnex rira vs gur trarengbe vf ba), bcra gur pnavfgre, CHG CUBGB VA FVAX *jvgubhg* svefg gnxvat vg, CHG CUBGB VA PNAVFGRE (ntnva jvgubhg bssvpvnyyl “gnxvat” vg), pybfr gur pnavfgre, bcra gur qbbe, naq gura tb hfr vg nf qrgnvyrq nobir.

      I think part of what’s going on with the photo is: gur terra obggyr unf qrirybcre, ohg gurer *vf* ab svkre (znlor gung’f jung jbhyq unir orra va gur rzcgl oebja obggyr?), fb gur cubgb erznvaf irel frafvgvir gb obgu yvtug *naq* gbhpu.

      I also (ol sbyybjvat gur pyhr cebivqrq ba gur zbavgbe jura lbh chg gur cubgb va gur fybg) did a thing that seems to *reset* the camera’s death timer. It still starts counting down again afterwards, but maybe that reset will ultimately give us enough sprints past it?

      I also encountered what I think is a bug if I try to carry one of the new items available past using the photo (the heaviest one) up the step ladder. The game won’t let me take the action – which isn’t so absurd because “this thing is too heavy to carry up the step ladder” is a not unreasonable complication – but the message it spits back is nonsensical and seems pulled from some other part of the game.

      • I managed to do the “camera reset”.

        Explicit instructions: Ba gur sybbe nobir gur bar jvgu gur pnzren gurer’f n unyyjnl gung frrzf gb yrnq gb abjurer ohg gur abegu jnyy vf oybpxrq ol ehooyr. Vs lbh qvt jvgu gur fubiry zber guna bapr vg jvyy pyrne njnl gur ehooyr fb lbh pna ragre naq svaq n ebbz jvgu n wblfgvpx.

        Other thoughts: Vg ybbxf yvxr chfuvat gur ohggba ba gur wblfgvpx pnhfrf gur ynfre gb sver ng gur cnegvphyne yriry gur pnzren vf ng. Vs gur pnzren unfa’g zbirq rabhtu vg’yy incbevmr gur sybbe bhgfvqr gur ebbz jvgu gur wblfgvpx naq lbh qvr gelvat gb yrnir. Vs lbh (vagragvbanyyl) znxr gur pnzren zbir n yvggyr zber vg’yy oynfg gur qbbe yrnqvat gb gur bhgfvqr. V unira’g grfgrq rirel cbffvoyr cbfvgvba gb or pregnva gubfr ner gur bayl gjb rssrpgf.

      • One other thing that _might_ be a hint on the wooden door upstairs:

        Lbh pna xvpx gur qbbe gb ohfg vg bcra. Guvf xvyyf lbh va gur cebprff, ohg vg fhttrfgf ivbyrapr zvtug or gur nafjre gb guvf bar.

  4. Pingback: Ferret: Surrounded By Sea | Renga in Blue

  5. “Foundation for Extending Research into Resuscitation and Embalming Technology” = F.E.R.R.E.T. Cute.

  6. Just a thought, but could the cellar maybe serve as a kind of Fallot shelter? You know, in case since sort of thermonuclear device went off for some reason?

    • I had the same thought! But died anyway when I tried it. I do still like the idea, but seems there might be a bit more to it (if it is indeed on the right track).

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