Ferret: The Door   16 comments

The Data General series eventually started to attain a “traditional desktop” look like the MV/2000 here from 1985 (picture from Novas are Forever). I know it could play Ferret because someone back in the 90s posted a message asking if anyone knew how to get a copy of Ferret, noting the machine they used to play the game on.

So, everyone — including both here and on the Facebook group, which at last check had gone up to 30 members — has been getting stalled on the same puzzle. I’m going to use this post just to talk about this one puzzle.

Before moving on, there is the open possibility of a bug, but according to the authors they’ve been using all the various automated systems the game provides to test walkthroughs and make sure they work. So there is some way through although it is not guaranteed to avoid having some slight oddity in parser use making it harder than it needs to be. (Example: An earlier version of the game accepted “lift” but not “push” for the lid at the opening. This was fixed in a later version.)

Part of the question here is: what norm does the game have about red herrings? Various authors have different standpoints, and quite often it helps to catch on to a particular author preference. Scott Adams, for example, has essentially no wasted space (but also a very tight memory capacity; Adventureland had a computer error room as a joke, but later games essentially pass on this as a feature). Let’s break out a boldfaced list:

No red herrings: While this is common amongst games with tight capacity (like one of Bruce Robinson’s games for the unexpanded VIC-20) there are some longer games that have gone with this as a style; Hamil for the Cambridge mainframe is a prominent recent example, which had a room full of dust which normally would be scenery, but in that game the dust becomes an important item for a puzzle (and not via cleaning it!)

Environmental red herrings: While no special effort is made to deceive the player, some particular items (and/or locations) have been placed for realism. Planetfall had, for example, locked rooms you never get to enter. Given the nature of adventure games, it is impossible to place an environmental red herring without it affecting the gameplay, but the author can still try to signal this is happening.

Difficulty red herrings: Items or locations placed with the full knowledge they will make solving puzzles harder. A relatively mild example comes from the opening of Acheton where an inviting mine entrance collapses when the player tries to enter. One common early trick was to include a weapon or other firearm that is never meant to be used and in fact can actively be harmful to the player.

Would a game be willing to put an entire puzzle setup just to spite Zork? I summarized the puzzle last time, but let’s do a full transcript:

You are in a featureless corridor. To the north there is a formidable wooden door with a reinforced window.

-> examine door
There is a reinforced window set in the top half of the formidable wooden door.
Approximately midway up the door, and to one side, is a keyhole. There is a gap
under the door.

-> i
You are carrying:
a coil of rope
a shovel
a sharp bayonet
a stained leaflet

-> slide leaflet under door

-> put bayonet in keyhole
There is a dull clunk from the other side of the door.

-> look through gap
You can just make out a key glimmering in the room beyond.

-> get leaflet

-> i
You are carrying:
a coil of rope
a shovel
a stained leaflet

Just to be clear: this is the heavily-sterotypical puzzle first seen in Zork where there is a locked door where the key was left in on the other side; you slide something underneath, push the key, it falls on the slid-thing, and then you pull the newspaper/leaflet/whatever out and the key has fallen on top of it.

Here, you go through the same procedure with nearly every object in the game and nothing works. What’s truly odd is the game bothers to model the physical aspect of the key falling, and even make a restricted list of items that fit, which tends to be more work than your typical red herring. But maybe the authors are the sorts that would, indeed, do that.

The other option, violence? Just using the bayonet doesn’t work; perhaps the laser cannon might if it was fueled up.

The cannon is quite compact, with a nice finger grip and ornate firing lance inlaid with quaint gold leaf in the post modern neo-romantic style. There is a round orifice in the end of the cannon.

-> shoot cannon
Nothing happens – Oh well, ne’er mind eh.

Various items can be deposited in the “round orifice” (the sphere with the toxic gas is the most tempting) although I haven’t gotten that to translate into the weapon firing.

Other shenanigans I haven’t gotten to work: You can “BREAK CANDLE” to get wax and some string, and I’ve attempted to tie the string to something (the bayonet, say) on order to give it farther reach to be able to make it to the key. No luck.

I also tried using the wax in various ways (maybe the key bounces off the paper it lands on, so make the paper sticky first?) but again, no dice.

Using a thermonuclear bomb in order to destroy the door:

-> pull lever
The thermonuclear device ticks for a few seconds and then stops.
-> examine device
On closer inspection, you notice a small red lever mounted on top of the device. Under the lever is a little quartz window.


-> look through window
There is a digital display which reads: 44
-> look through window
There is a digital display which reads: 43
-> look through window
There is a digital display which reads: 42
-> look through window
There is a digital display which reads: 41


-> look through window
There is a digital display which reads:♫ 3
-> look through window
There is a digital display which reads:♫ 2
-> look through window
There is a digital display which reads:♫ 1
There is an incredible explosion nearby, due to your exposed situation the enormous pressure wave squashes you to a pulp.

Well, satisfying, but not very helpful!

My current betting odds are 5% we’re doing things right with the paper under the door, just we’re using the wrong parser commands; 35% the procedure is mostly the same but an extra boost is needed; 30% that violence is instead required; 28% the way through is something I haven’t thought of; and a small-but-present 2% that something went awry in compiling version 10.0 that makes the puzzle currently bugged.

Posted October 11, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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16 responses to “Ferret: The Door

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  1. Progress:

    There is an enormous explosion nearby that virtually deafens you. The room becomes amazingly hot. The floor shakes incredibly and you can just about hear the thunder caused by falling concrete and steel. There is the sound of rock splitting nearby.
    -> l
    You are in a warm stonewalled cellar. The stairway leading up is totally blocked by fallen rubble and debris. There is a gaping hole in the north wall. The floor is slanting to the east.

    The candle flickers and burns out.

    • btw, this still doesn’t help with the door! But explicit hints for how to get the above:

      Guvf erdhverf univat oynfgrq lbhe jnl guebhtu gur sebag qbbe.

      Nsgre qbvat fb, lbh fubhyq or noyr gb gnxr gur gurezbahpyrne jrncba bhgfvqr. Qebc vg bss, gura chyy gur yrire gb fgneg gur gvzre. Trg lbhefrys qbja gb gur pryyne naq pybfr gur ungpu. Nf ybat nf gur jrncba vf bhgfvqr lbh’yy trg gur erfhyg fubja.

      • More progress. I’ve technically escaped the island. Technically. All comments encoded below.

        Abegu bs gur pryyne vf n ynolevagu. Guvf vf n irel rnfl bar nf sne nf ynolevaguf tb (a-j-j-f-h-fr-fj-r-f-f). Gur vzcbegnag guvat vf gung lbhe pnaqyr qbrfa’g tb bhg juvyr lbh’er genirefvat vg. Zl zrgubq jnf gb hfr na bayvar gvpxre ncc gb pbhag zl zbirf nsgre frggvat bss gur qrivpr, gura jnvg bhgfvqr gur pryyne hagvy zbir 46 be fb, tvivat zr whfg rabhtu gvzr gb yvtug zl pnaqyr, tb qbja, naq pybfr gur cyngr.

        Bhgfvqr bs gur ynolevagu yvrf n ornpu jvgu n ebjobng. Gur gevpxl guvat vf gb trg qbja gurer jvgu gur bnef va unaq. Guvf vf whfg cbffvoyr vs lbh znxr hfr bs gur sver rfpncr ba gur hccre sybbe gb trg qbja gb gur tebhaqf jvgubhg univat gb svefg cnff gur pnzren. Nezrq jvgu bnef, lbh unir zreryl gb “chfu bss obng”, gura “trg va obng” naq lbh’er ng frn. Lbh pna zbir va frireny qverpgvbaf nf ybat nf lbh unir gur bnef va unaq.

        Jura gb qb bapr lbh trg gurer vf nabgure znggre. Gur frn vf n ynolevagu va vgf bja evtug. Fb sne, V unira’g orra noyr gb fhpprffshyyl anivtngr—qrngu ol jvaq, errs, naq bgure bofgnpyrf yvr gb nyy fvqrf.

        Gurer’f gur bgure znggre bs jung gb gnxr jvgu lbh va gur obng. Lbhe pncnpvgl vf irel yvzvgrq ol gur snpg gung lbh unir gb pneel gur bnef (V jbaqre vs gurer’f n jnl gb guebj gurz bss gur pyvss?) Gurer’f fbzr punapr gung gur arkg cneg bs gur tnzr jvyy or n fbeg bs gnohyn enfn va juvpu lbh qba’g arrq gb ergnva nalguvat sebz gur svefg frpgvba, ohg fbzrubj V fhfcrpg guvf tnzr vf pehryyre guna gung.

      • Two things that may help you:

        Regarding darkness. Qnexarff bayl xvyyf lbh jura lbh gel gb tb hc be qbja.

        Regarding the item you find. Gur plyvaqre tbrf vagb gur ynfre pnaaba.

      • Tremendous news! And excellently done!

  2. I’ve also now “technically escaped the island” and made a couple of other discoveries:

    1. Vg’f cbffvoyr gb “chg bnef va obng” naq gura ebj gur obng nebhaq jvgubhg npghnyyl univat gb pneel gur (urnil) bnef.

    2. V’ir sbhaq na vagrerfgvat ybpngvba va gur bprna pnyyrq “Fgbal Fuber,” juvpu frrzf gb orpbzr ninvynoyr nf “ynaq gb gur abegu” be “ynaq gb gur abegurnfg” enaqbzyl jura ebjvat guebhtu zvfg (V pbhyq zbfg eryvnoyl trg vg gb nccrne ol ercrngrqyl ebjvat qhr rnfg nsgre yrnivat gur fgnegvat Ornpu). *Gurer’f n fheivibe* gurer! Ohg fb sne, nyy bs zl nggrzcgf gb vagrenpg jvgu uvz unir yrq gb vtabzvavbhf naq ivivqyl qrfpevorq qrngu.

  3. The deterministic path to the Fgbal Fuber is F-F-F-R-R-AR. I have fnvyrq enaqbzyl guebhtu gur zvfgf uhaqerqf bs gvzrf nyernql, naq rknpgyl BAPR V sbhaq n fcbg jvgu fbzr xvaq bs yvtug ohbl (be fbzrguvat) juvpu yrq gb qrngu (vg jnf n errs jneavat). I never managed to find it again!

  4. Not sure if you already know this, but nsgre chggvat gur plyvaqre va gur bevsvpr lbh pna CBVAG YNFRE NG fbzrguvat naq gura FUBBG YNFRE. Guvf jvyy oybj hc gur obng, sbe rknzcyr, ohg fbzr bgure guvatf V gevrq (yvxr gur oneery) qvqa’g oybj hc.

    Has anyone managed to oevat obgu gur pnaaba naq gur bnef vagb gur obng? My next guess would be to fubbg gur byq zna.

  5. Phase 2! I mapped out the entire sea grid, anyone let me know if you want it.

  6. Yay! I’m in Phase 2 now also. That sea mapping was something… :D But I feel I have more exploration in Phase 1 that I still want to do. 150 points!

  7. I’m at phase 2, 175 points. Probably finishing my next post tonight.

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