Ferret: Brute Force   16 comments

While we’re very, very, close to finishing off the long multi-phase section of the game, that doesn’t mean the last part of the haul is easy.

(Prior posts on Ferret here.)

From the Department of Defense booklet Facts about Fallout Protection, 1961.

I left off last time entering a water maze in Phase 15, and said I got through, but I didn’t say how I solved it. See the title? Heh.

-> n
Sunken Plot
Floating in water in a dark area between very high walls. To the south is a stairway leading to a raised area. High above you is a wire cable.
Exits: NS– ——– U-
-> n
Holloways
Floating randomly in swirling, turbulent water between high walls. Hidden low level currents occasionally pull you below the water level but the life jacket eventually pulls you back to the surface.

Being in water, you are not allowed to drop any items. However, I started to notice something very quickly about the structure of the maze.

-> w
Holloways
Floating randomly in swirling, turbulent water between high walls. Hidden low level currents occasionally pull you below the water level but the life jacket eventually pulls you back to the surface.
-> w
Holloways

I have the game here turned on BRIEF mode. That means it will only give the full description of a room the first time you enter it. Notice that after moving west twice I get just “Holloways” which means I have re-entered a room I have already been in.

I realized, after a little experimentation, that this was an all-or-nothing maze, where you need to do exactly the right steps, or otherwise it drops you off the path. Not only that, it drops you off the path in a room that “loops” with no escape.

This might seem overly cruel, but it is in fact helpful. Because the pattern simply is:

a.) if you go in a wrong direction followed by another direction (of any kind) you will see “Holloways” with no room description

b.) if you go in a right direction followed by a wrong direction you will get full room descriptions both times

c.) if you go in a right direction followed by a right direction you will get full room descriptions both times

It doesn’t really matter you can’t tell the difference between b and c. What matters is knowing if you’ve fallen into a. That means you can test an exit, and if you find that is a wrong exit, mark it off your list. This process leads to:

There is likely some clever solve, as all this leads to a Pylon of Xephelous…

Holloways
Floating randomly in swirling, turbulent water between high walls. Hidden low level currents occasionally pull you below the water level but the life jacket eventually pulls you back to the surface. To the north is a stairway leading up out of the water.
-> n
Floating Platform
A floating platform at the base of a pylon. Attached to the side of the pylon is a ladder.
Exits: -S– ——– UD
-> u
Pylon of Xephelous
You are on a small ledge commanding a spectacular view of the surrounding country. Unfortunately, the vistas are quite depressing, showing as they do, a world of total devastation. There are extensive earthworks creating a lunar landscape of deep trenches and spoil strewn with filth and rubbish and smouldering heaps of rotting flesh. High above you is a wire cable. Suspended from the cable is a maintenance cage. A ladder leads down the pylon from the ledge.
Exits: —- ——– -D
The maintenance cage contains:
a nickel key

…and there is a very similarly named pylon in a poem from way back in Phase 9.

Report of the Vlandorf Expeditionary Force
Date: 27 November 1957

How long is it since we took a good look?
Could we ever find what we were looking for?
Once we analysed the text and found the missing “the”.
Luckily that led us to the location of the pylon.
Another thing that we should have thought of.
Unless we had made that expedition to Xepherous.
Xepherous gave us lots of clues as to when.
Eventually, though, we may just end up floating.

Your humble servant Obcequs, the Tharp of Tranydore.

Look at the last word of each line: Look for the pylon of Xepherous when floating. If there’s some extra connected material amongst the other documents that hints at the zig-zag path of the maze, I haven’t found it. (The fact it is a zig-zag means it might not even be specific directions like we’ve had on other mazes.)

Moving on, you can grab the nickel key from the cage and BOARD it (not CLIMB or other verbs I tried).

Your enormous bulk causes the ancient brake mechanism of the lightweight cage, which was quietly suffering the ravages of time and rust, to shear completely, releasing the movement restraint from the trolley supporting the maintenance cage. It rolls down the cable, which due to its age, starts to stretch ominously. As the cage reaches its nadir it smashes into the ground disgorging its heaviest occupant (you) most unceremoniously. The relief from your great weight causes the cage and its contents to fly skyward, releasing it from the cable bogie and hurling it off the cable into the surrounding countryside.

Unfortunately, the nickel key doesn’t fit into anything else in the phase 15 area. There are many locked doors in the tall building…

-> u
Landing
A small diffusely lit area with stairways leading up and down. In the west wall is a pair of swing doors. Painted on each door is a large number 1.
Exits: —- ——– UD
-> u
Landing
A small dimly lit area with stairways leading up and down. In the west wall is a pair of swing doors. Painted on each door is a large number 2.
Exits: —- ——– UD
-> u
Landing
A small dimly lit area with stairways leading up and down. In the west wall is a pair of swing doors. Painted on each door is a large number 3.
Exits: —- ——– UD

…but alas. I guess it’s for phase 16?

Speaking of the building, we’re stuck on the roof-heating depression-projector that falls on your head section.

-> put chip basket in depression
Done.
A strange ethereal humming noise eminates from underneath the plexiglass. The plexiglass starts to glow, first red, then orange then white. You smell the acrid stench of burning from a long uncleaned surface. You appear to have discovered an automatic induction hob. Bang! A faulty one too. The food detection system seems to have inappropriately calculated the cooking temperature required resulting in some overheating, thereby welding the chip basket to the surface of the plexiglass.

Placing something vinyl (there’s a vinyl cup, beaker, and spoon in a cabinet) will cause it to make a melted pool, but otherwise everything we’ve tried has vaporized. The asbestos bag would be quite promising but it doesn’t fit. This all suggests there’s some item there is missing, which is not unlikely, because we know we’re missing at least one section from all the past phases.

Let me loop back and talk about tickets.

You are carrying:
  a lime ticket
  a lemon ticket
  a strawberry ticket
-> read strawberry ticket
The strawberry-coloured ticket is very faded but appears to allow journeys from Egham Station to any destination in the local Western Transit Loop. The duration of validity appears to be perpetual.

We found the lime ticket at phase 9 (in the same cabinet that had the automaton), the strawberry ticket at phase 11 (the lake) and the lemon ticket at phase 13 (the dark maze). Each corresponded to a different station, suggesting to me perhaps there were more; some gentle inquiry with the authors led me to find out the are five tickets from phases 9 to 14.

Since this information we’ve found one of the tickets (in phase 14), but are still missing one. If we assume a phase has at most one ticket (not a safe assumption, but it is a starting point at least) then phase 10 and 12 and 14 were the ones worth study; it turns out there was already lingering suspicion something was missing with phase 14, so I’ll discuss what happened in detail and go back to talking about 10 and 12.

That sequence with Old Nick -> Sataniacha -> Goat Stall -> etc. was a series of riddles which all turned out to have triangular numbers as their answers. It turns out to be useful to look closely at the text that happens when one of the riddles is solved:

‘0’
There is a tremendous grinding of gears and the hiss of compressed gas escaping as the floor shakes violently, closely followed by the lower part of one of the walls lowering out of sight.

The trick here is that this setup is over another one — notice the “Prototype” room marked on the map in blue. It is originally dark. After solving the first riddle:

Prototype
An area with a low ceiling. The feeble ambient lighting appears to be seeping through the ceiling.
Exits: N— ——– —

That seemed to be that, although it was a very curious stub indeed.

There used to be a way through, but it was blocked by the sliding of the wall when solving a riddle! When the room is still dark, you can navigate through, and it turns out the steps to get through are identical to the steps it takes to pass through the riddle rooms. It’s another reverse-info puzzle — you really need to have the entire layout of the riddle sequence in order for the dark layout sequence to make sense. That is, you have to block off the dark maze (making the dark maze unsolvable, but only in one quantum time-branch) in order to solve the dark maze.

I just cut and paste my walkthrough from the riddle section, which leads the player avatar to amusingly say answers to riddles that do nothing. (I mean, I could cut out the say statements, but overall move efficiency is not really a concern in this game.)

-> say 0;e;say -1;n;say 3;e;say -6;s;say 10;s
‘0’
You are in the dark.
‘-1’
You are in the dark.
‘3’
You are in the dark.
‘-6′
You are in the dark.
’10’
You are in the dark.

Curiously, the revelation here (from commenter K) came from an update to the game. The game has still been getting regular updates on the webpage and the most recent update mentions preventing brute force from working on phase 14. This led K to suspect brute force was related to navigating in the dark, leading to the solution! However, the message was referring to the next section after the dark one.

Looking Up Satan’s Bumhole
A small room with a low ceiling. The feeble ambient lighting appears to be seeping through the ceiling. There is a dark and foreboding stairway leading downwards.
Exits: -S– ——– -D
-> d
Underpass
You are in a narrow passageway very poorly lit from a room at the top of a staircase.
Exits: -S– ——– U-
-> s
Underpass
You are in a narrow passageway very poorly lit from an exit to the west.
Exits: N–W ——– —
-> w
Quadrangle
A square alcove off to one side of a large open area in a huge cavern cut from rock with lighting suspended from a very high ceiling. There is a vast lit area to the west but a dark and foreboding exit to the east. Affixed to the north wall is a poster.
Exits: –EW ——– —
-> read poster
Visit Jock’s Bar

Market Street next to the Seck’s Shop

Liquor in the Front

Poker in the Rear

Spit-roasts a speciality every Saturday

This leads to a 3 by 5 grid of rooms.

Each room is a “large open area” with some kind of artifact, but only one of the rooms I could refer to the artifact:

Blake
A large open area in a huge cavern cut from rock with lighting suspended from a very high ceiling. In the centre of the room is a spectacular sarcophagus.
Exits: -SEW —-SESW —
-> test sarcophagus
Begin test.
LOOK AT INTEREST
The sarcophagus glisters and sparkles in a most tremendous way. You are bedazzled and, not to a small degree, hypnotised by the beauty of the object. Strange that such wonder should be associated with the morbidity of death. Any road up, you may be interested in the inscription on the side of the gaudy object which reads:
The Most Exulted
The Highmost
The Leader of Freed Men
The Champion of the Underdog
The Most Betrayed of All
Put to Death this Day
ABCDXY0123789
By Federation Termination Order
May his Magnificence Rest in Peace

This might be related to the scribble back in the manor of Phase 9.

-> read scribble
It appears that a builder from some distant time in the past (the language appears to be ancient estuarine) has left his calculations inscribed for posterity on the wall.

Wifdf = AX
Hiftf = BY
Lemff = 9782C310

0123789 also is mentioned in the dark maze:

It could be that 0123789 is a number pure and simple, representing, say, the number of days since a given start point, possibly denoted by some other equation. Alternatively, it could be symbolic, with, for example, 9 and 0 denoting some simple code, one that often stares people in the face.

I’m also suspecting some signifcance to the the rooms in the grid beyond what is visible, because afterwards is a section of rooms with another 3 by 5 grid, kind of.

I’m honestly very puzzled what’s going on — all these rooms are “poorly lit hovels” and there are rooms that appear to be dead ends but if you revisit them they suddenly have exits appear.

Cataract
Cramped, poorly lit hovel.
Exits: N-EW NENW—- —
-> e
Arc of Oblivion
Cramped, poorly lit hovel.
Exits: N–W –NW–SW —

At the end is another “hovel room”, the Archive of Angst, which has a plum ticket. At least in version 10.20! If you have upgraded, something different appears.

Archive of Angst
Cramped, poorly lit, smelly hovel. This room appears to have been partitioned from a previously larger room as, incongruously, there is a brass plate set off-centre in one wall. The plate features a grille under which is an engraved instruction. Sprayed across one wall is a graffito that reads: “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be”.

To explain what’s going on, I’ll just let the authors take over:

The brute force referenced on the website News page was the method for obtaining the route to the Archive of Angst.
There is a puzzle (not yet solved) that reveals the route to the Archive of Angst.
The tweak applied in 10.21 makes it necessary to solve the puzzle in order to get past the new grille.
You can still brute force the route but it doesn’t give you the complete solution.
If you have a saved game with the plum ticket available then you can continue with that.
If you transition from Phase 13 to Phase 14 then you will need to solve the grille puzzle to get the ticket.
It’s more for new players than the current group of expert game players (although it gives them something more to think about).

In other words, there’s some kind of puzzle that’s supposed to be happening — probably you need to step in the right rooms — in order to arrive properly at the plum ticket. However, it seems we also have the author’s blessing to keep moving if we got the plum ticket through the grace of playing with a prior version. This is unlike what happened earlier with a bug that let us jump straight to phase 17 without solving anything in the 9-16 section; the puzzle does work as originally designed, just it is easy to “luck out”. I would still like to retro-solve the puzzle, especially if it crosses-off some of the clues, because that means less clues to consider in solving other puzzles. However, I’m still moving on for the moment as if I’ve found the plum ticket.

So now: where is that fifth ticket? Neither phase 10 nor phase 12 seem that promising. Phase 10 had the theater fire and the giant crypto-crossword layout, phase 12 had the big Mastermind board. Probably the most suspicious “unfinished” part in 12 is a waterfall that traps you:

Vision of Moisture
The path here has been cut into the side of a mountain. The path runs from north to south, but to the north your passage is obscured by a most beautiful awe-inspiring waterfall.
Exits: NS– ——– —
-> n
Waterfall
You are standing in a most wonderful, beautiful awe-inspiring waterfall. The water has a wonderful cleansing effect but the sheer force of the water is totally disorienting.

This waterfall only is activated at full blast because of the spigot being turned on in phase 11. However, even without the waterfall active, you still get stuck in this section.

Waterfall
You are standing in a most wonderful, beautiful awe-inspiring waterfall. The water has a wonderful cleansing effect but the force of the water is quite disorienting. To the east is a dark and foreboding cave.
Exits: N-E- ——– —
-> e
Retreat to Desiccation
The cave is dark and foreboding, very gloomy and grey, most suffocating in its cloying damp atmosphere.
Exits: —W ——– —
There is a stone tablet here
-> read tablet
The tablet appears to have been engraved at some time in the past but the ravages of time have caused much distress to the surface of the stone. However, a little of the inscription is still legible.
On one side: 6, 26, 10, 11.
On the reverse side: M, V, X, Z.
-> w
Waterfall
-> n
Irriguous Cul-de-sac
The path here has been cut into the side of a mountain. The path runs from north to south but becomes too narrow for further passage to the north.
Exits: -S– ——– —

Really, the whole point behind the waterfall activating seems to be to trap people who solved phase 11 before exploring 12; if you’ve not seen the cave, then you won’t get the clue about the crypto-crossword puzzle (on the stone tablet) because it now gets blocked by the waterfall. Having a blocked exit in both cases suggests to me this is really meant to be a one-way exploration spot, like the sewers in phase 9.

One last thing to mention: in my recent 1982 recap I announced I would be folding up with Ferret at the end of January. I still plan to stick to that, essentially: if I’m not done before the end of the month, the only other post I will allow myself to make is one with “Finished” or the like. Progress can still happen in the comments. While I know my readers do like my ultra-long-game writeups, things have gone on long enough to be a strain and I really need to be getting on with some more 1982 games.

Setting a time limit also serves as a good incentive to try to push to the end. This seems like a dangerous thing to say for Ferret, but I don’t think we’re that far away.

Posted January 11, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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16 responses to “Ferret: Brute Force

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  1. I’m not sure how this helps, but all the names in the 3 by 5 area (apart from Scorpio) are characters from the BBC science-fiction series Blake’s 7 and the references on the sarcophagus suggest that Roj Blake is the person interred there.

    • This corresponds well with the guru incantation #111 that I received during my temporary access to Phase 17 earlier.

    • And Scorpio was the name of the ship. Don’t know if it means anything, but there are two obvious names “missing”.

    • After reading up more about Blake’s 7 I am pretty convinced of some things:
      1. The teleport bracelet is *clearly* out of Blake’s 7.
      2. The Archive of Angst room is probably intended to remind of a Blake’s 7 “teleport bay”.
      3. The recipe for teleportation in Blake’s 7 seems to consist of a) being in a teleport bay, b) wearing a teleport bracelet, and c) stating one’s destination.

      More information about all these things are just a web search away.

      Despite all this, and wearing the teleport bracelet in the Archive of Angst while saying many things I hoped to be smart, I have not made any progress. Perhaps I need to actually watch some of it and not just read about it… Could this be the Ulysses (of Zork fame) moment for Ferret? Probably/hopefully not, after the bashing it has given Zork for that. :D

      Furthermore, I have not been able to find link between room names outside of the already identified 3×5 area and Blake’s 7.

      • Given the game has _also_ included a Wilde quote trivia quiz, I think the not-like-Zork ship sailed quite a while ago.

        Also got the extra message from the authors:

        > Scorpio was the second space vessel in Blake’s 7, The Liberator was the first.

      • Yes, the bracelet system was on The Liberator. “Liberator” is one of the destinations I have tried stating.

        Some of my convictions above might have to be adjusted, but I’m still sure of #1 and that deeper knowledge about Blake’s 7 should be the key to the Archive of Angst room.

        Here is a link to the episode where the teleport system is first encountered and used:

  2. I think it is equally likely that the reference is part of the puzzle as it is not. Nice to know, though!

    My current suspicion is still something like telephone buttons, except I would expect a telephone button layout to be 3 by 4, not 3 by 5. It would allow mixing letters and numbers, though.

    • I wonder if what we’re meant to do is spell out a word with our movements through the “hovel” rooms. Like, moving N/SE/N traces out an “N,” or moving SE/NE or SW/NW traces out a “V,” etc. And the exits necessary to do so pop up as you go through the process of tracing out those letters. Then, with the grille asking you to “state your destination,” you need to say the word you’ve traced out as proof that you indeed know where you’ve been going.

      What might the word be? Aye, there’s the rub.

  3. A couple of thoughts regarding the fifth ticket:

    1. We’ve never done anything useful with the “book” that is the prize for solving the Phase 12 Mastermind puzzle. Entering the book’s location does give points, and there is nothing else there, so it seems fair to assume the book *is* in fact important. Perhaps it hides the fifth ticket? It’s described as having all of its pages stuck together due to water damage. Maybe it can be dried somehow, enough to open? The Phase 15 stove seems promising in that regard, although no progress there as of yet.

    2. We’ve also never done anything useful with the “teleport bracelet” that was inside the Phase 9 security capsule (unlocked with the silver key). Maybe it activates when in the right place? Perhaps somewhere in Phase 10 or 12, to be used to reach a new sub-area in those phases?

    3. I agree the Phase 12 waterfall seems unlikely to be the answer, in particular because you have to go through the Phase 11 lake sequence to get the strawberry ticket – and, as an unavoidable result thereof, “turn down” the Phase 11 waterfall while “turning up” the Phase 12 waterfall. Assuming a final “winning run” involves collecting all five tickets, this means the elusive fifth ticket can’t be in a place made inaccessible by getting one of the other tickets.

    • I have been thinking that the teleport bracelet i looks like a promising candidate for an exit strategy alternative to the windows cradle, possibly allowing you to bring something stove-produced out of that floor.

      • I note that the cradle stays outside the Milligan floor window when you enter (unlike the red herring floor where it abandons you), so it is possible to get back from there just by stepping in the cradle with no inventory (or with something light enough to not weigh the cradle down at all), in which case you get raised back up to the Roof. (Of course, if the goal is to bring something stove-produced back to the rest of the game, it would either need to be extremely light *or* there’d need to be an alternative exit, which could certainly be the teleport bracelet. And since we get points for reaching Milligan it is, presumably, *not* an “information only” quantum echo.)

    • I have been thinking that the teleport bracelet looks like a promising candidate for an exit strategy alternative to the windows cradle, possibly allowing you to bring something stove-produced out of that floor.

    • I also just received what is more or less a confirm based on what you suspected on the stove —

      “Find the correct object to subject to warmth” – the choice of the word Find was significant, we didn’t use the word Choose….

      in other words, yes, we haven’t found what should go there yet.

  4. one more mysterious clue from the authors

    PUT VINYL BLOCK IN BASKET

    We, of course, have not seen a vinyl block. But we have seen a tan block! We got the block from a pad in a ticket office. Could we possibly get more stuff? Not only a vinyl block but including, maybe, the phase 10 ticket?

    • As the original combination was seven digits, and 5^7 isn’t _too_ terrible to test, I went ahead and tried all the combinations of seven buttons possible. Only one of them (the correct one) had the “whirring” message. I have not checked thoroughly for some other message but I suspect this is the wrong tree (‘course, longer than seven digits is also possible, but that gets beyond me wanting to deal with brute force).

    • Two thoughts

      1. VINYL BLOCK feels, to me, weirdly comparable to the ACRYLIC ORB we get for defeating the cyborg.

      2. I forget which phase it’s in, but the room in Phase 10 where we get the tan block repeats itself somewhere else, right? Just, without a keypad. Or perhaps we should say, without an *obvious* keypad.

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