Ferret: Big Brother is Watching You   36 comments

(Directly based off my previous post.)

No progress at all! But time is tight (see above) so let me update anyway.

After a number of increasingly absurd attempts at setting the system date, and looking into creating a giant batch file script that would check every possible system date from 1984 to 1988, we received another missive from the author hivemind:

The Broom Cupboard. The answer is not related to the date and you don’t need to change the settings of your computer.

Phew. Saved by the bell. But also:

There is something anomalous about the Foyer and Broom Cupboard.

There is a very subtle clue in the first sentence/page of the book, but that wasn’t designed to be the way to solve the problem, it just happens to be there.

Hmm. Curious. Here’s the two descriptions again:

In a derelict warehouse. Large open area. Lit through semi-transparent skylights. Main warehouse to the north. To the west an aluminium door.
Exits: NS– ——– —
-> open door
-> w
Broom Cupboard
A very small room with an aluminium door set in the east wall.
Exits: –E- ——– —
There is a book here

I certainly fiddled more in the cupboard than in the Foyer, so spent some time looking for oddities there. On the face of it, the big difference is that one is large and the other is very small, but I already knew that. (I had suspected that perhaps this indicated the room was really an elevator, but this suspicion led to no specific action.)

The Foyer lacks a “skylight” object even though the description of skylights is identical to other rooms in the warehouse, but that seems like a glitch more than a clue.

Fine, maybe the book will be revealing? The clue was unclear if what was meant was the first sentence upon reading the book’s description, or the first page of the real book 1984, so let’s consider both.

The book is very old and appears to have been damaged by immersion in water.

I never thought much of the water here — it makes for a good way to have identify-the-book be a naturalistic puzzle rather than a forced one — but maybe there’s something more to this comment. Specifically, maybe the book was left in the broom closet intact, and was only damaged by water later? In that case, where did the water come from? Leaks in the room? The ability to slide down and get submerged? This thought led me (and others in the comments) to prod heavily and the ceiling and floor, at least more heavily than before, but nothing came out that wasn’t a default message.

We tried bringing actual water in the room (akin to the well in Zork) with no result. I even tried ritually dropping the book into the water, theoretically giving it even more damage, but nothing changed (I don’t think the physics modeling of Ferret even is handling it properly).

Fine, what about the actual Orwell book? What counts as the first page depends on what font things get printed in, so let’s just give the first three paragraphs:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended.

As Voltgloss observed, the bit about the lift being shut down during daylight hours might be kind of like a hint, and it does align with the room being an elevator. I then tried various ways of convincing the game the room was dark, but no joy, including absurd commands I knew just weren’t going to work, just in case there was a helpful error message.

-> cover skylight with linen
I can’t see anything like that around here.

Other efforts include getting the game to hardlock by using the cyborg. I was slightly incorrect last time about the cyborg; she does have a random chance of making it all the way up to the Foyer (I think the reason WAIT FOR wasn’t working is that she is more likely to get stuck at the Waterfall.) I tried going south and typing WAIT FOR CYBORG and the game completely locked up and I had to hit control-C to quit out. Voltgloss had something similar when he trapped the cyborg in the broom closet by closing the door. I suspect this means the cyborg still isn’t our candidate for solution, but at least crashing was a result other than futility.

I’m completely stumped from here. Usually in this scenario the issue requires something outside the puzzle, like messing with power elsewhere, but my minor attempts at doing alternate button presses at the lake yielded no results. Is there some other method to convince the warehouse that “the rave is open” so to speak and it is fine to open any kind of secret night-time passage or elevator? I can’t think of any.

ADD: We had a breakthrough due to a much more explicit hint from the authors — details in the comments. Updated save at the start of Phase 16 here for anyone playing along (note that nothing is done yet in Phase 16 in the save, including releasing the handbrake or putting in the tickets).

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Posted January 29, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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36 responses to “Ferret: Big Brother is Watching You

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  1. At this point I’m beginning to think this is a Hezarin “CHIMNEY” situation where there’s one magical verb or phrase that we need to hit upon to convince the game we’re doing the right thing… and it’s a verb or phrase that TEST, which has lulled us into a false sense of complacency, very specifically (perhaps deliberately! because this, is, Ferret!) does *not* test.

  2. Carrying over from the previous post, maybe those loose ends somehow fit together.
    Voltgloss said: “where are the lights coming from in the Broom Cupboard, especially with the door shut?”
    Zherak said: “Did someone say misspellings were to throw of solves without the full set of transparencies? Otherwise, my best guess is that they are just meant to draw particular attention to these particular words (state of enlightenment, destination).”

    Could we take “state of enlightment” literally, i.e. the Broom Cupboard must be lit (enlightened) to make progress toward the “destination”? The generator is gone for good if I did follow correctly but could something be done with the semi-transparent skylight, for example, to make it fully transparent and thus have additional light?

  3. New message dropped. We were right about the elevator. I am not sure how the method follows. Verbatim:

    The anomalous thing is that the aluminium door is present in both rooms (doors are normally available in only one room).

    This means it’s a sliding door (stating that specifically would be too obvious).

    Sliding aluminium door … you’re right, you’re dealing with a lift/elevator.

    The book references a lift on the first page as you’ve mentioned. Bizarrely, in that specific edition, the first number on the first page is thirteen. The thirteenth line on that page starts with: “It was no use trying the lift”.

    The trick though, is to complete Mastermind without pressed the rainbow button (reverse of pot of gold at the end of the rainbow).

    • That last step, what a jump of faith.
      ( Or OCD testing everything everything. :) )

      • Really am not understanding the logic there. I think if there was a whirring mechanism activating with hitting the last light correctly, and then some sort of sad mechanical sound upon hitting the rainbow button, it would still be tricky but at least I would get why it works the way it does.

    • … I’m sorry *what*

      even knowing the broom cupboard is a lift seems to be absolutely zero help in sussing out what to do, or rather, what not to do (i.e., that the last apparent step of solving the Mastermind puzzle – pressing the button to, based on appearances, *actually submit the answer* – is in fact creating a softlock, despite the game REWARDING us for doing so by giving us points)

      this goes below and beyond the Phase 14 “solving the numbers maze actually locks off the important maze under it” conundrum because in Phase 14, there was a clue in that *we earned no points for solving the numbers maze* – making it logical, by Ferret standards, to think “maybe solving the numbers maze isn’t correct for the critical path.” here, all appearances suggest that pressing the rainbow button is correct and necessary *because it leads to points*

      petition to add a new entry after CRUEL of the Zarfian cruelty scale:

      Rating: MENDACIOUS

      Definition: Can get stuck, which is not obvious afterward, by doing something the game appears to reward as correct (e.g., by increasing the player’s score or providing the player with a new item). Beatable by saving arbitrarily to multiple files and assuming that any action leading to something the game appears to reward as correct may instead have soft locked the game.

      Example: The player passes by a machine with multiple colored buttons and one large key-shaped button, then walks over a bridge to see a locked door. If the player presses the colored buttons in a certain sequence and then presses the key-shaped button, the key-shaped button lights up; when they return to the locked door they find it unlocked. After going through the door, the player finds a dead-end with an item and their score increases. The item is a red herring; by pressing the key-shaped button, the player actually became stuck because a second, essential, item on the other side of the door was vaporized. This is not obvious and it is logical for the player to save after becoming stuck because they appear to have successfully solved a puzzle (in that their score has increased and they found a new item). The player must instead press the colored buttons in the same certain sequence but *not* press the key-shaped button; then, when they return to the locked door, it will be unlocked and on the other side they will find *both* items. The player must revert to a file where they have not yet “solved the puzzle” and then think to check the door after only, from their perspective, “partially” solving the puzzle.

      • (ok i feel better now, sorry about the rant)

        I apologize for the imposition, but as I’m not able to revert to pre-10.21 and the plum ticket “steit of enlaitenment” instructions still don’t seem to be working as intended, I would greatly appreciate a link to an updated phase 16 save with the ID card. Thanks in advance!

      • Many of the Phoenix/Toplogika games had at least one puzzle where you were rewarded for ‘solving’ it but you actually softlocked the game without knowing (eg. the Ningy in Acheton or the tea in Philosopher’s Quest). Even Scott Adams did it with the Savage Island password.

        Believe it or not, that level of cruelty or mendacity is just what was normal in these classic games.

      • Neither the tea nor the ningy give a reward, really. The game actually berates you if you push the ningy early (which is supposed to be a hint) and the game remains silent on the tea.

        The difference here is that when finding a new location and having new points go up, it always is a beneficial thing. Having the points has been the only reliable barometer through the game we aren’t dealing with another red herring.

        I can see why it happened, insofar as the authors wanted do a subtle clue akin to the pier, but you can’t arrive at the pier wrong.

  4. we have the matching sheet to the answer sheet, if anyone wants to take a go

    These feel like they are meant to match with events in 1984

    1,1 First named building.
    1,2 Should be repressed according to the open diary.
    1,3 Age when she left.
    1,4 Near at the start of work.
    1,5 Movement of lunch queues.

  5. so, given how Ferret has been wonky at times about broken exits, I have a specific late Phase 16 question I’d suggest asking the authors, to confirm all is working as intended

    “Vs lbh tb fbhgu sebz ‘EU va Mbb,’ gur ebbz ercrngf. Vf gung vagragvbany be n oht?”

    • wait, how did you get there? I tried pushing the button on got nothing even with the identity card, I assumed I was missing yet another obscure thing I’d need to save for after work

      • Znxr fher lbh’er abg pneelvat *gbb* zhpu (gur VQ pneq, gur gryrcbeg oenpryrg, naq n jnyyrg shyy bs enqvbnpgvir fghss pna or pneevrq; nqqvat gur gvzore funeqf znxrf gbb zhpu jrvtug), naq PYBFR QBBE orsber lbh CERFF OHGGBA

      • Also, if at the top of the lift you encounter problems of the [inphhz] variety:

        1. Ubj qb fcnprfuvc ragenaprf va zrqvn bsgra jbex?
        2. Fcrpvsvpnyyl, nveybpx ragenaprf?
        3. Tvir gur nveybpx gvzr gb plpyr orsber cebprrqvat.
        4. JNVG n srj gheaf ng Gbc bs Yvsg hagvy lbh urne “n uvff bs tnf.” Gura JNVG bapr zber sbe tbbq zrnfher orsber bcravat gur qbbe, orpnhfr guvf vf Sreerg.

      • aw, I hadn’t checked the rot13 yet and I was hoping you had already unearthed the Secret of the Ooze there

        Been trying to figure out what we can refer to and what we can’t, Oddly, at the somewhat spectacular main room, none of the buttons/levers and even the giant ooze ball are accessible. As far as I can tell, we can access:

        Gur fybg ng gur Gryrcbeg ebbz

        Gur xrlobneq naq fybg va Anivtngvba

        Gur fcnpr fhvg

        Any others? I think we may finally be breaking out the cryptic message at the sarcophagus (and the related other messages) here.

        I suspect we are meant to just [jr whfg frg gur evtug qrfgvangvba, ubc bire gb Gryrcbeg naq obbx vg] just because there does seem to be enough turns to do this.

      • I suspect you are right, but am unnerved by the apparently broken exit because [vg frrzf gb cerirag hf npprffvat nyy bs gur Oynxr’f 7 gurzrq (nantenzzrq) fuvc ebbzf, zrnavat gung vafgrnq bs thrffvat na nantenz bs gur bar erznvavat hahfrq rcvfbqr anzr, jr znl vafgrnq or fghpx thrffvat sebz nzbat 10 be fb rcvfbqr anzrf].

      • have you gotten the teleport to work on any of the other room names yet?

        “Many theories have been expounded but most seem to revolve around the notion of finding Room 52 – there is a Teleport that understands the room names of the ship so that might be the way in.”

        Certainly sounds like we’re ignoring Senator / Treason.

      • Note that the episode Sand does not have an anagram in the available rooms. If we figure out how the teleport mechanism works, we can probably just brute force our way through the possibilities until we get that one, then walk our way to the rest of the rooms

      • Good thinking (and no, I have not yet figured out how to make the teleport mechanism work – hopefully it does in fact work for *all* rooms and not *just for* the mythical 52nd room)

      • realized we can just use the GOTO command

        I did all 24 permutations

        GOTO DANS is the correct one

  6. so, we’re at a part of the game where we are on a space ship, and the rooms have weird names.

    The names all anagram to Blakes 7 episodes

    We are missing some rooms due to a bug, but we should otherwise try to match

    This spreadsheet is what I am using to do the matching — the third column has the real names and I am cutting and pasting as I am finding the matches


    • thanks to an anonymous person who was moving things around too, we have the spreadsheet full

      The unused episode names are

      Time Squad
      Voice from the Past

      eight of those ought to be walkable to except the thing is broken

      I think Sand has few enough anagrams we can use that to try to figure everything else now

      • I managed to get Time Squad -> Made Quits, Sand -> Dans, and Traitor -> Art Riot via using the GOTO function of the game. Someone anonymous got Hostage -> She Goat.

        That leaves four unknown. I hope we don’t have to do Voice from the Past as the teleport room, that has waaaaaay too many possible anagrams.

      • the anonymous helper is me, we’re left with Voice From the Past

        one thing I learned that speeds things up is that Ferret recognizes all the words that go into location names as “nouns,” meaning that if you just type a possible word-in-a-location-title by itself, and Ferret responds “What would you like to do with that?” then it’s a possible option. If Ferret instead responds “I don’t know the word ‘XXXXX'” then you can cross it off the list.

        so, for example, after the following exchange:

        -> mache
        I don’t know the word ‘mache’
        -> machr
        I don’t know the word ‘machr’
        -> march
        I don’t know the word ‘march’
        -> masti
        I don’t know the word ‘masti’
        -> match
        What would you like to do with that?
        -> mates
        I don’t know the word ‘mates’
        -> matri
        What would you like to do with that?
        -> meati
        I don’t know the word ‘meati’
        -> merca
        I don’t know the word ‘merca’
        -> merop
        I don’t know the word ‘merop’
        -> mesoc
        I don’t know the word ‘mesoc’
        -> metap
        I don’t know the word ‘metap’
        -> meteo
        I don’t know the word ‘meteo’
        -> mispa
        I don’t know the word ‘mispa’
        -> miste
        I don’t know the word ‘miste’
        -> mistr
        I don’t know the word ‘mistr’
        -> mitsv
        I don’t know the word ‘mitsv’


        whereas MATCH, MATCHER, MATCHERS, and MATRICES are possibilities

        of course, many words remain

      • actually I should note there’s at least one other anonymous helper who was moving things around, I only started pitching in beginning with She Goat

        credit where credit is due

      • I realized what is the “Voice From The Past” anagram, and I am 98% certain it is in fact the anagram we will need

        [Rfpncr Sebz Ubg VGI]

      • hahaha wow

        that’s actually pretty good

        the sort of thing I was expecting all these clues to mash together to get

  7. For reference, mainly because the first message was at Blake at the rooms with all the Blakes 7 references:

    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
    By Federation Termination Order
    May his Magnificence Rest in Peace

    Mong the Magnificent, King of Throb, Ruler of the Vibrations, Artisan of the Pulsating Wobblers was universally revered for his insights into the art of personal pleasure, usually of an exotic nature. It is assumed that he had discovered some incredibly good blow before coining this wonderful quip, full of deep thought and liberating enthusiasm:

    “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.”

    Or, just maybe, Mong has sustained such physical and mental abuse in pursuit of hedonistic pleasure that he had gone completely barking.

    Yo, ya kno’ that Graham geezer and his massive number. Well, like, X is the spot an’ it’s the last free digits, dig it?

    Blap, blap. This is fierce. Y, oh Y, does the posse go mental when I jive some symbols at ’em? All I said was “pi and mash”.

    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

    • also, from the Sewer

      I need to explain this before I expire. My life’s research has led me here. Sadly, I think my mind has been failing over the most recent years, things not having the clarity they used to possess. For what it is worth, and I hope it is worth something, otherwise my life has been for nought, my findings are as follows. Please pass on to Prof. Anderson of the Anthropology Department of Springfield University if you can.
      “Every story of lore had three protagonists, they say. Let’s call them A, B and C. These lovely three were not related but they were from the same family, which means they are related, if you see what I mean. The first degree of freedom is the order of significance, which, in this case only, is reverse alphabetic order with a small, but significant, amount of moistness. Now, each of A, B and C can represent an individual digit, number, equation or some combination of some or all of the parts. Suffice to say the permutations are nearly endless, but in this case, think of some bears with a propensity to sugary conserves. The second degree of freedom is magnitude, for which an analogy with the late 20th century telephone will suffice coupled with the standard innuendo. The third degree of freedom is position within the arithmetic equation (or it is not how big it is, but what you do with it, to use televisual allegory). In this case we need to look to X and Y. If X is larger than Y then B is below the line, whereas if you are playing bridge it would be definitely above the line, if not straddling it. If Y is larger or equal in magnitude to Y then all are above the line with a straightforward multiplier effect. Not forgetting, of course, the geographical offset.”

  8. On getting the teleporter to work, at the risk of stating the obvious, the ID card fits in the slots in both the navigation and teleport rooms. The difference between the two rooms seems worth noting. If we had some way of entering input in the teleportation room, it seems our problem would be solved (just saying the room we want after inserting the card doesn’t seem to do it). Is there maybe something we could do with navigation? Some destination outside the ship that we’ve been given some indication of somewhere?

  9. Pingback: Ferret: Overwhelming Power and Imminent Danger | Renga in Blue

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