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Vampire Castle (1980)   4 comments

Aardvark released six adventure games in 1980; so far we’ve seen Trek Adventure, Deathship, Escape from Mars, and Pyramid.

Vampire Castle is (as far as I can tell) Mike Bassman’s only adventure game. It was, as usual, originally written for Ohio Scientific computers, and (also as usual) later ported to the Commodore 64.

From the Aardvark November 1981 catalog.

Rather unusually, there was also a MS-DOS port.

The sign says “the vampire wakes up at midnight”.

I went ahead and played the Ohio Scientific version as I did with the prior games, but I should note while the “concealed goal” idea mentioned in the instructions above seems cool conceptually, in practice here it’s bizarre; I’m in a game called Vampire Castle, I wonder if there might be some enemy I might need to defeat, one that likes to hang out in coffins?

This is also a quite straightforward and easy game, where I only got stopped twice (once from parser trouble, once from a genuinely interesting bit where I had already used up a resource). Hence, I think it’s an ideal test-bed for something I’ve wanted to try for a while: make a map not of the game, but of the inter-relation between puzzles. (If you desperately need a traditional map — and I’m not going to begrudge you because a fair number of visitors to this blog come for the maps — CASA has you covered.)

Now, this is not an novel enterprise; game designers make this kind of thing all the time[1], but I haven’t seen it as much from the player end, and I figured it might be an interesting device in my arsenal to have if I’m stuck on a game (perhaps allowing the ability to use structural solving, for instance).

To go there, I need to explicitly spoil the entire sequence of the game, so veer away now if for some reason you plan to play this first. (You can play the MSDOS version online at this link; it has some differences from the original but is close enough.)

Here’s a public domain spooky moon picture for spoiler space.

The game starts in an east-west hall with a fireplace, a library, and a parapet accessible. You also find an axe and sledgehammer in the same hall. Entering the fire leads to being burned to death, and GO PARAPET leads to falling, so those puzzles aren’t solvable right away. The library has a scroll indicating not all exits are obvious, and PUSH BOOKCASE opens an exit down.

The down-exit goes to a secret passage with a rope, a flask of oil, a bucket, and a crate. The axe can be applied to break the crate and get some wooden stakes.

The rope is sufficient to go to the parapet and TIE ROPE. This opens up an area with a key, holy water, and an oar. You can get the holy water with the bucket.

Once obtaining the water, you can DROP WATER at the fireplace to extinguish the flames. Inside the fireplace is a torch but nothing else; however, you can BREAK FIREPLACE to open a secret passage[2].

The hidden passage leads to a boat, which you can row as long as you have the oar. Then there’s a tapestry nailed to an overhang. The overhang is too high to reach, but if you haven’t destroyed the crate yet, you can drop it and use it as a step-stool to reach the overhang and remove the nails (using the sledgehammer, which apparently doubles as a regular hammer). This lets you pull down the tapestry and get to a secret passage[3].

There’s then a rusty door which requires oil to get through, followed by a room with a coffin. Opening the coffin (using the key) reveals the vampire; if you’ve got the wooden stakes you can then KILL VAMPIRE and win.

Only having the parser understand the first two letters of each word wrecks havoc on one’s spelling.

That’s the setup, here’s my diagram:

Dotted lines indicate a resource is used up.

I’m not happy with it yet; it looks like something meant to be read by computers rather than people, it doesn’t lead to any extra insights, and on a more complicated game this is going to turn into a nightmarish tangle. So, I need to keep experimenting.

Maybe:

1.) Rather than insisting on an arrow for everything, have some “distance connections” indicated by matching numbers (like on some complex text adventure geographical maps).

2.) Make the objects smaller and more like unified lists, so the actual puzzle-events have more space.

3.) Mark the crate in a special way indicating it’s possible to waste it before it can be used (that is, if you break it before using it as a step-stool, the game is soft-locked).

Any suggestions along these lines are helpful, I might take another crack at this soon. In the meantime, I’m down to 7 games to go before finishing off 1980!

[1] Does anyone have a lead on what the first extant documentation is for this sort of map? (That is, a map of puzzle relations, not a map of geography.)

[2] This is the spot of the game I had parser trouble. BREAK WALL didn’t work and the fireplace itself doesn’t appear as a listed noun when inside; it’s just in the title of the room.

[3] This is the second place I got stuck, because I had destroyed the crate already, and in evaluating my potential objects for use, I forgot to account for objects that existed only in the past. I’m also not sure why you can’t just apply an axe to the tapestry to get through.

Posted December 8, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Odyssey #2, Treasure Island: Finished!   2 comments

One of my commentators managed to crack the case.

From Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the Milo Winter illustrated edition.

I had been stumped with this “crossword puzzle”.

IT SAYS:
ACROSS
1. SLEIGHT OF HAND
2. TYPE OF PUZZLE
THE REST IS TORN OFF.

I assumed (in fact correctly) that 1. indicated “MAGIC” and 2. indicated “WORD”, but I tried things like SAY MAGIC WORD with no luck. I was parsing the clue slightly wrong.

ACROSS
1. MAGIC
2. WORD

It’s indicating that ACROSS is the MAGIC WORD. So at the RAVINE where I was stuck, I just needed to SAY ACROSS.

This led me to some COAL. I was also able to DROP my LADDER here to get over to a *CAVE PAINTING* (another treasure), but obviously the coal (in its starting form) didn’t quite qualify. There was no magic machine as in Zork to process the coal, but it occured to me this might be a situation like Pyramid of Doom where the coal was just surrounding something else. Going over to the ocean and typing SWIM OCEAN gave the coal enough of a bath to get a *DIAMOND*.

I also mentioned last time not being able to get anything off a newsstand; I was misunderstanding the situation and it’s possible to GO NEWSSTAND as if it were a room to get a copy of Hustler. There’s more detail in the comments, so I’m going to just refer to that and that say the entire business is optional.

Posted December 7, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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His Majesty’s Ship ‘Impetuous’: We May Both Live to Regret This   Leave a comment

From last time, we had a dilemma where the young officer Fallow cursed out the King of England and in so doing condemned himself. The punishment as given by law is death, but the captain is allowed to pardon an offense. However, the execution will hurt morale (for obvious reasons) and a pardon will as well (as it appears that the law is not enforced).

We had landed on an isolated bay on mainland France so Fallow could attend the burial of his brother, and pulled him aside after out of earshot. What’s interesting here is while the game explicitly gives execute and pardon as choices, the game hints there might be “another way”. This is related to an idea I laid out while writing about Star Trek: 25th Anniversary — that an issue with choice-based moral decisions is that in reality, even knowing there is a choice at all can be difficult.

I had surveyed all of you, the readers, to give me responses, and they fell into a few categories.

Category #1: Pardon

“I’ve decided to pardon you. The men will understand, in the circumstances.”

pardon the boy.”

Two people went with the given “pardon” option even though the game was hinting at a hidden “third option”; I find this particularly interesting in that even knowing about the third option this one is still tempting. A potential problem I see with the “hidden choice” mechanic is the feeling that once found, that choice is always better than the other two. Based on events later in the story, it is mechanically, but that doesn’t mean it’s still morally (by whatever metric the player is roleplaying as) the best choice.

Category #2: Escape

LET YOU ESCAPE

“I’ve decided to shoot you with an unloaded or empty pistol. When you hear my gunshot, fall down and play dead or feign or fake your death. Do not move again until we have left. From there you are on your own. Good luck lad. Now, I order you to run.”

Both of these are understood the same way.

Note that the complex plan in the second doesn’t quite work in the physical situation — the captain already has loaded pistols, so essentially this would require going back in time and changing the setup. I find this one fascinating from a game design angle: suppose you had a parser that genuinely understood the whole thing as typed, what would be the optimal response? Would saying “your guns are already loaded” be acceptable here? Or maybe it’s possible to “retroactively” change reality — Schrödinger’s gun, so to speak, which is neither loaded nor unloaded until it becomes clear what the player’s intent is?

This may also indicate simply that the distance between choice-points in a traditional CYOA structure might be a little too large to pull this sort of thing off — if all the preparation steps were simulated like a traditional text adventure game (>PICK UP PISTOLS, >LOAD PISTOLS, etc.) it would have been possible to prepare the complicated scenario.

Category #3: Doesn’t Quite Make Sense Given the Scenario

MAROON FALLOW

I actually typed this when I first played the game! But if you go back and read carefully, this is on the French mainland, so “maroon” doesn’t make sense as an idea here. Again, I’m curious what the optimal response here is (“But we’re on the mainland, sir. Are you feeling ok?”)

Category #4: Maybe Doesn’t Give Enough Instruction

FAKE YOUR DEATH

FAKE YOUR EXECUTION

Neither of these are understood, but in even in an optimal understand-everything parser, I’m not sure they ought to be? It doesn’t really convey to Fallow what to do right at that moment. Something like “What exactly are you proposing, sir?” or that like.

Category #5: Indicating Future Action in an Ambiguous Way

“…sentence you to death, but allow you to escape.”

Is this indicating the captain will be giving a later chance of escape somehow? This option is fascinating because it seems to want to plan events in the future, but in such a way that it’s not guaranteed particular things will hold up (perhaps the intent is to have him escape by boarding the boat, but he might already be restrained by another crewmember at that point — is the captain going to somehow wrangle that to not happen?) The game incidentally parses this like Category #2.

For all of these, it helps to find the “third way” if the dialogue about “what if he tries to escape?” is visible. In the game that text is on the previous screen, and I was actually quite baffled. Not just in the usual puzzle-solving way, but with the existential dread of anything I could possibly type being an option. It was a unique experience. It made me wonder even if game responsiveness and AI evolved to the point we could have a full “holodeck”, would the player even “play” in a way that led to a responsive story? Does the ability to do anything still require a tutorial?

Robert Lafore himself discussed this puzzle in a later essay, and it definitely seemed intended players might miss the solution the first time through the game.

You have to decide whether to hang him or not. If you do, the crew thinks you’re being too harsh. If you don’t, they think you’re soft. Either way, in the big sea battle at the end of the story, they abandon their posts. It requires a little imagination to figure out the right thing to do. It’s a third choice in a situation that seems to have only two choices. Most people figure it out eventually. That’s one of the tricky parts of writing interactive fiction: The decisions the reader—the hero—is called upon to make have to be hard enough to be challenging but not so hard that the story becomes frustrating. The idea is that the third or fourth time the reader faces the situation he suddenly sees the solution, smites himself on the forehead, and cries. “Why didn’t I think of that before!

Softline, September/October 1983

I’m not quite sure how optimal this really is. Keith Palmer mentioned a contemporary review…

A 1982 review from 80 Micro.

…wherein the reviewer gave up and just hung Fallow because he was frustrated. This is the meta-frustration of lack of communication, not the in-universe recreation of the captain’s dilemma.

Before I go into spoiling the rest of the story, I should mention Jimmy Maher has converted the entire thing to Choicescript so you can just click your way through, rather than type. There are still some differences — I’ll get into those later — but the most significant puzzle you’ve already had spoiled (assuming you’ve read to this point) so you’re fine playing the converted version.

The structure is in three parts:

The Burial of Fallow (Chapter 1, 2 and 3)

In addition to the events above, the player has to choose who to promote to be the new Lieutenant. They are explicitly given two choices:

Lt. Beagle, who is fiercely loyal but sometimes brash in battle.

Lt. Wiley, who is very competent but also ambitious and angling for the captain’s job.

Either choice can work out; the next part of the story includes two incidents, one where it’s better to have Beagle, and one where it’s better to have Wiley, and the player needs to be aware enough when a particular action is a bad fit.

The Spanish Galleon and the Small French Ship (Chapter 4 and 5)

In the next chapter the Impetuous comes across a Spanish treasure ship, but because the ship is near a fort, attacking it requires a daring plan.

“NOW,” SAID WALTON, THINKING OUT LOUD, “IT WOULD BE A BLOW TO SPAIN IF WE CAPTURED THE TREASURE, AND THE PRIZE-MONEY WOULD BE CONSIDERABLE. BUT THE RISK IS HIGH. ASSUMING, HOWEVER, THAT WE DID DECIDE TO ATTACK, WE WOULD ROW IN AT NIGHT IN THREE OF THE SHIP’S BOATS. YOU, MR DASHER, WOULD LEAD ONE PARTY, I WOULD LEAD ANOTHER, AND LT WILEY WOULD TAKE THE THIRD. THAT WOULD LEAVE YOU, MR STAYSON, HERE WITH THE SHIP.”

(Replace “Walton” with the name the player chose, and “Wiley” with “Beagle” as appropriate.)

The choice here is simple to attack or pass on by.

If the player has Wiley, this mission is as success; if the player has Beagle, he will shout “Death to the Spanish!” early and spoil the plan.

Later, the captain has orders to steer clear of all encounters and meet the fleet. The Impetuous encounters a French ship pursuing an American one.

“SHE’S CHASING THE AMERICAN, BY GOD,” LT DASHER SAID. “AND SHE’LL CATCH THEM SOON ENOUGH AT THAT RATE. LET’S GO AFTER THEM, SIR!”

“WE CAN’T. AS YOU KNOW OUR ORDERS FORBID US TO ENGAGE THE ENEMY FOR ANY REASON.”

“I WAS FORGETTING, SIR.”

“IF WE ATTACKED HER, AND THE ADMIRALTY FOUND OUT, IT WOULD MEAN A COURT-MARTIAL FOR ME.”

AND YET, #1 THOUGHT, WOULD THE ADMIRALTY FIND OUT? ONLY THE SENIOR OFFICERS–DASHER, STAYSON, AND WILEY–KNEW THE CONTENTS OF THE ORDERS.”

If you made Wiley a senior officer, attacking here is a bad idea — he will report your behavior to the admiralty. Beagle, as the loyal one, will not.

This gives a chance to get treasure by using either officer — if Wiley, the Spanish vessel, if Beagle, the French one. Of course, a player in the midst of the game isn’t aware of the structure, so they might attack the Spanish Galleon even if they’re aware it could be a bad idea, just because of concern this might be the only way to get treasure (this was, ahem, me in my first playthrough).

BUT AS THE AMERICAN SHIP VANISHED OVER THE HORIZON WALTON REMEMBERED–WITH A SUDDEN SENSE OF FOREBODING–THE CALCULATING LOOK IN LT WILEY’S EYES.

The Battle of the Fleets (Chapter 6 and 7)

“NOW, I’LL EXPLAIN THE SITUATION.” ADMIRAL WORMWOOD UNROLLED A LARGE CHART ACROSS HIS DESK. “OUR FRIGATES HAVE SIGHTED THE COMBINED FLEETS OF FRANCE AND SPAIN PUTTING OUT FROM THE HARBOR OF FERROL, HERE. WITH THE ADDITION OF YOUR ‘IMPETUOUS’ TO THE FLEET WE HAVE 27 SHIPS. SUPERIOR BRITISH SEAMANSHIP SHOULD ENABLE US TO DEFEAT THE 40 OR SO SHIPS THE ENEMY WILL SEND AGAINST US, ALTHOUGH THEY ARE GENERALLY LARGER VESSELS, AS YOU KNOW.

THE COST MAY BE HEAVY, BUT THE FATE OF ENGLAND–AND INDEED THE WORLD–HANGS IN THE BALANCE. I NEED NOT TELL YOU THAT ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY. LET US HOPE THAT WE WILL MEET AGAIN, ON THE DECK OF A VANQUISHED ENEMY.”

The finale is where the captain meets with Admiral Wormwood, and the player gets reminded of any mistakes made in previous chapters. Here is some of the actual BASIC source code.

5160 A$=” THAT YOU ARE HAVING CONSIDERABLE
TROUBLE WITH DISCIPLINE ABOARD.#
#I’M AFRAID THAT’S TRUE, SIR. EVER SINCE I ”
5170 GOSUB2000
5180 IF VF=1 PRINT”HAD TO HANG”
5190 IF VF=2 PRINT”PARDONED”
5200 IF VF=3 PRINT”HAD TO SHOOT”
5210 A$=”POOR MIDSHIPMAN FALLOW THEY’VE BEEN OUT OF CONTROL.
THEY’VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO ACCEPT THE “:GOSUB2000
5220 IF VF=1 OR VF=3 PRINT”HARSHNESS”
5230 IF VF=2 PRINT”LENIENCEY
–IT MUST HAVE SEEMED LIKE FAVORITISM TO THEM–”
5240 A$=”OF MY DECISION.#
#LET’S HOPE THEIR INTRANSIGENCE DOES NOT PROVE FATAL,#
THE ADMIRAL SAID.”:GOSUB2000

Then the battle begins in earnest, as the Impetuous faces off against “towering masts” akin to a “giant forest”.

“WE HAD BETTER BACK OUR SAILS, SIR,” STAYSON SAID. “TO WAIT FOR THE REST OF THE FLEET TO CATCH UP WITH US. OTHERWISE WE’LL HAVE ALL THE ENEMY BROADSIDES TURNED ON US AT ONCE.”

“BACK OUR SAILS? AND SHOW FEAR IN THE FACE OF THE ENEMY? NEVER!” CRIED LT DASHER. “I SAY ATTACK! DAMN THE ODDS!”

The best result comes from attacking right away, but it only works if the ship is at full strength — no hits to morale or people lost during the Spanish Galleon attack.

“MAY I SAY THAT IT WAS MAGNIFICENT, THE WAY YOU WENT AFTER THE ENEMY PRACTICALLY SINGLE-HANDED. A STERLING EXAMPLE FOR US ALL. I WOULDN’T BE SURPRISED IF YOU’D JUST WON YOURSELF A KNIGHTHOOD, AS WELL AS THE UNDYING GRATITUDE AND RESPECT OF YOUR COUNTRYMEN.”

If waiting, it’s still possible to have made a mistake and still survive — another ship comes in and steals the glory, but at least you’re not sunk.

WALTON’S CAREER WAS INDEED RUINED, AND BECAUSE OF HIS REGRETABLE FAILURE TO ACQUIRE ANY PRIZE-MONEY, HE WAS FORCED TO BECOME AN ITINERENT PEDLER. HE DIED OF THE POX IN AN OBSCURE CHELSEA ROOMING-HOUSE IN 1837.

There’s other small events in between the ones above; the steward occasionally comes by to offer wine or dinner; Stayson has the occasional question about sails. Some of the type-in prompts are definitely designed for open roleplaying. When attacking the Spanish galleon, you can say something to inspire the crew (but your words get lost in the din of combat, so the game even is clear as to the fact it had no “in game” effect). The game even encourages swearing at one point:

7035 D$=”
#1, ASTONISHED BY THE SPIRIT WITH WHICH THE
ENEMY SHIPS ATTACKED, UTTERED THE SALTIEST OATH
HE KNEW: #”
7040 GOSUB2000:GOSUB1000
7044 IFLI/2-FIX(LI/2)=0 A$=
” #I COULD SWEAR BETTER THAN THAT WHEN I WAS A WEE LAD,#
MUTTERED #2 TO HIMSELF.”:GOTO7046

(#1 is the captain’s name, #2 is either BEAGLE or WILEY depending.)

There’s also a nice moment talking with the Admiral where you seem to be prompted with for a THANK YOU, but you need to remember this is chain of command, so either THANK YOU, SIR or THANK YOU, ADMIRAL is the appropriate phrase. You get berated for getting this wrong (but not in a way that affects the story arc). I admit being rather pleased to getting the “SIR” in the first time around.

Even though ‘Impetuous’ has its share of communication issues, I’d say it made a noble try at open-ended player interaction, even more open-ended than either parser or choice have aspired to. Nearly 40 years later, it feels like a map to some hidden shell — covering new possible worlds of gameplay — yet to be cracked open.

Title graphic from the Apple II version of the game. Via Mobygames.

Posted December 5, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Unreleased Infocom Game Unearthed (from 1986)   9 comments

Adam Sommerfield just announced on Twitter that he found, amidst the directories of the Infocom Hard Drive, an unreleased game. The author is unknown.

He managed to compile the source code into a playable game. The announcement video is here, which has a download link in the video description.

It seems to be just a test game of sorts, but it is genuinely playable. (I did get a crash — probably an “authentic” one — so beware of bugs.)

Posted December 4, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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His Majesty’s Ship ‘Impetuous’ (1980)   11 comments

Robert Lafore has previously graced this blog with Local Call for Death, Two Heads of the Coin, and Six Micro Stories.

All of them use the same basic interaction gimmick of searching input for keywords, Eliza-style, rather than making full attempts at understanding. If the game is looking for “YES”, both

YES

and

YES BUT I OBJECT TO THIS LINE OF QUESTIONING

are interpreted in the same way. This worked decently in Lafore’s two mystery games (Local Call for Death and Two Heads of the Coin) in that a lot of the interaction was just inquiring after specific pieces of evidence or objects; Local Call for Death even included a room that could be examined like a traditional adventure game.

Six Micro Stories was somewhat less successful, insofar as of the six titular stories, most of them demanded a more open conversational style where it was often possible to say the “right thing” but in the wrong way. For example, in The Fatal Admission, the player is asked a question that is a trap; saying YES is clearly the wrong thing, but saying NO also leads to death. To “win” requires vociferously denying the entire premise of the question to begin with, which can be done in a wide multitude of ways, not all of them conducive to checking for keywords.

His Majesty’s Ship `Impetuous’ changes up the style again, and feels a little like a traditional choose-your-own-adventure. The player is the captain of the Impetuous during a time of war with France and Spain. The game cues the player with specific prompts to respond to.

However, this is not mechanically the same as a choice-based game. While some prompts really do only have the choices given (the one below tests for YES and NO) it’s possible to “type outside the box” so to speak.

Notice the opening quote mark; the game encourages you to punctuate correctly and end with a period mark and quote mark of your own.

I’m going to describe an early event in the game. I’d like to know how you (my faithful readers) would respond; please try to make a comment without reading the other comments first, because I want to tabulate this like a survey. (I will spoil the entire structure of the game next time and really dig into the ramifications of this style.)

In the meantime, if you’d like to just try the game yourself, here is a link to play the TRS-80 version online.

Previously (before the story even started) the Impetuous had done battle with a small French frigate. While winning handily, in the process the well-liked Second Lieutenant Fallow was killed. All were mournful, but especially his brother, Midshipman Fallow. The ship settled in a bay, in order to bury the Second Lieutenant on land.

“Don’t humor me!” Fallow cried, pulling away. “It doesn’t bring back my brother!” His voice had risen to a shriek and the crew stopped and craned their heads to see.

“You must be brave,” Walton said. “He died in the line of duty, for king and country.”

Fallow looked up at him. “Damn the king!” he screamed. “Damn duty, damn the navy, damn you all!” He stopped suddenly, his eyes widening in terror,
realizing what he had said. The crew had fallen so silent that Walton could hear a timber groan somewhere in the depths of the hold.

“I’m sorry sir, I don’t know what I was saying! I don’t know what came over me, I’m sorry, oh, sir…”

Unfortunately, young Fallow here had made a grave mistake: speaking “disrespectfully of the sovereign” gives a sentence of death.

In theory Captain Walton had the power to pardon any crime aboard his ship. Yet if he pardoned young Fallow, discipline would suffer — probably irreparably — as the crew concluded that mutinous acts would not be punished, and that Walton showed favoritism to his officers.

If only there was some way to save young Fallow’s life without pardoning him! But what? Whatever decision he made, Walton knew Fallow’s fate had to be settled the next day, lest delay itself cause discipline to suffer.

The next day, the older brother’s body was taken to land.

Sailing-Master Stayson had remonstrated when Walton ordered Young Fallow into the boat.

“But sir,” he had said, surprised into questioning his captain, “what if he tries to escape?”

“I’ll take my pistols, Walton had told him harshly. It’s his last chance to say goodbye to his brother.”

To hang Fallow, or to pardon him? Or–was there another alternative?

Walton made up his mind. He drew young Fallow away from the grave, out of earshot of the others. He looked the lad in the eye.

“I’ve decided to…

What do you say? Remember, try to make a comment without reading the other comments first.

Posted December 3, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Odyssey #2, Treasure Island (1980)   5 comments

There’s a bit of a gap here — the last I wrote about this series was back in 2017 — so just as a refresher, Odyssey #1 started with a royal messenger walking in a tavern, where the proper action was to >ATTACK MESSENGER. After killing the messenger you find out about a dastardly plot involving a damsel in a castle. The game seemingly had some missing backstory: that the character knows something the player doesn’t, which is why stabbing a random messenger was OK — the main character was probably waiting for them specifically to show up.

Odyssey #2 has no such mitigation. The main character is straight-up amoral.

The authors are Joel Mick and James Taranto this time, instead of Joel Mick and Jeffrey M. Richter.

The game starts at an airport diner, when a man sitting next to you dies. You rummage amongst the body and find a key and take it. You take the key to a nearby locker, and find a PILOT’S SUIT, SHOVEL, and CROSSWORD PUZZLE. The suit has a pocket with a treasure map.

You go in a nearby bathroom to change into the pilot suit, then sneak by a guard, board an airplane, and fly to Treasure Island, whereupon the Treasure Hunt part of the game begins as you aim to score 100 out of 100 points by gathering all the treasure you can find like a chest and a “dubloon”.

In a jungle there is a “fort”. If you THROW BOX while at the fort you can bust a hole to break in, and find a headless body in the process, caused by … us? I’m hoping it’s just meant to be an old corpse. The body has a ring, so more treasure for us.

There’s also a gun, which (in contrast to other games I’ve mentioned recently), we get to use. There’s a pirate preventing us from getting to his ship (otherwise not being threatening) but we can SHOOT PIRATE to remove the obstacle. (Although in this case the shot just scares him away.)

The ship has some *20-YEAR OLD SCOTCH* we can take as well as an *ANCIENT MAP*. Piling all the treasures I managed to find so far netted me 70 out of 100 points.

I’m stuck from here. I only have two things that seem left undone: the crossword puzzle left in the locker…

IT SAYS:
ACROSS
1. SLEIGHT OF HAND
2. TYPE OF PUZZLE
THE REST IS TORN OFF.

…and a huge ravine where trying to GO RAVINE gives a response of “HOW? IT’S TOO WIDE!” and LOOK RAVINE indicates a cave in the far wall.

I assume the crossword puzzle is trying to indicate MAGIC WORD and the game indeed understands SAY MAGIC WORD but nothing happens whenever I try it.

I’ve tried bringing a ladder from the pirate ship over to the ravine, but that isn’t helpful either.

>CLIMB LADDER
IT DOESN’T LEAD ANYWHERE, SO I CLIMB BACK DOWN.

I’ve tried (again without luck) poking through the machine code. I did discover the verb >MAS is in the game (“I HAVE NO VISUAL AID”) and there’s also a “Hustler Magazine” object, but I suspect the authors of this game may have disabled the item in current version (the NEWSSTAND at the start of the game seemed like it’d have it, but no verbs I’ve tried work). I’m betting about 60-40 something else is broke that makes the end impossible to reach.

The game is at The Interactive Fiction Archive if anyone wants to take a swing. I’m fine closing out here, though.

Posted December 2, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Dragon Quest Adventure: The Angel and the Demon   12 comments

I wanted to go into one last, small feature of Dragon Quest Adventure I learned about after finishing. The implementation in practice isn’t exciting, but the game mechanic it suggests is marvelous.

Also, I wanted to toss this picture from the manual up, because commentators Lisa and Andrew in my previous post were trying to track down the source of the game’s cover; it is possible this picture comes from the same source.

Like various other games from this period (including Crowther/Woods Adventure) there is a HELP feature. I only had tried it once, and didn’t find the advice useful, but at least it’s accurate.

However, instead of angel appearing, it can be a demon instead:

This is an anti-hint. Of course the demon would give bad advice! I’d have loved if this continued with context-sensitive hints where you constantly have two hint-givers bickering, but alas this was not to be. Still, it’s a microexample of what could be a more fully-fledged game feature.

(I can only think of one other related example, from Curses in 1993, except that only has hints from a demon, and the advice is a mixture of good and bad.)

ADD:

Daniel in the comments explains how to get to the angel in Curses (it’s harder to reach than the demon). That means we have an official successor to the idea.

Two more examples from the comments, courtesy Josh and Peter:

Nethack has fortune cookies that can be blessed or cursed; blessed cookies give good advice and cursed cookies give bad advice.

The Wizard Sniffer (2017) has a pair of fleas, one who always tells the truth and one who lies.

Posted November 30, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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