Archive for the ‘Interactive Fiction’ Category

Pyramid: XBMMT IBWF TFDSFUT   7 comments

I managed to reach the “end” as far as the game’s bugs would let me; the typical spoiler warnings apply, and if for some reason you reached this post without reading my previous one about Pyramid, go do that first.

I had previously found a sword that was the property of “ALI BABBA” and Matt W. suggested I try “OPEN SESAME”. That led me being teleported to “TWISTING PASSAGES”, a mostly headache-free maze.

The room marked in red has a floor that “feels funny” and is a deathtrap, but only triggers if you pass through from north to south or vice versa; if you enter from one side (north or south) and leave from the same side you stay safe. This is interesting in a theoretical sense in that it implies position and movement for the player; usually in text adventures the avatar is assumed to entirely “fill” a room, but this is a scenario where the center of the room is assumed to be avoided unless the player explicitly “passes through”.

A brief aside on mazes: now that I’ve experienced many a text-adventure maze from the 1970s through to 1980, other than being an easy puzzle to copy, I’ve found they can serve a purpose akin to “grinding” in a CPRG. On a traditional CRPG, when one is “stuck” on a puzzle or difficult fight, as long as there are random encounters, there is always the possibility of revisiting old encounters and getting experience points. Even if the grinding turns out to be useless on balance, it gives some sort of activity to do that still feels like “playing the game”.

On an adventure game, it’s easy to get into a “hard stop” scenario where there is nothing to do, but when there’s a maze, it’s possible to go back and do “busywork” — check and re-check to make sure nothing has been missed. This was especially true here given an early message, given in the title of this post and the image below.

The black isn’t an error; the main part of the maze uses this as the graphic.

If you shift all the letters forward by one you get “WALLS HIDE SECRETS”, so I was testing out lots of “invalid” directions in the hope of finding something.

What I wasn’t doing was trying to “PUSH” or “PULL” things because the verb “PU” had already been used by “PUT” earlier in the game. (Remember, only the first two letters are understood!) However, Matt W. observed that PUSH WALL seemed to get a unique message, and I tried it out in multiple places before finding it useful at a dead end.

In the Ohio Scientific version of this game the room is a “Twisting Passage” still, and of course didn’t have the unique graphic, so it originally was a slightly harder puzzle.

PUSH WALL at the dead-end opened a passage to a locked hole. So the exact same verb was overloaded by the game and given two different meanings! (I confirmed it really still only understand the first two letters.) This is absolutely wild and I’ve never encountered such a trick in a game before (and I would say I probably won’t ever again, except there’s still more games from Aardvark to play after this one).

If you LOOK HOLE you see a LOCKING MECHANISM. Now, I had found a KEY elsewhere in the maze, so I just assumed it was useful here, but since no permutation of UNLOCK HOLE gave me any luck, I assumed I was hitting another verb issue and checked a walkthrough.

This was a mistake — it turned out to be a pretty neat puzzle. You see, one of the items in my inventory was a PISTOL, but just Pyramid of Doom and nearly every other adventure from this period, the pistol was useless as a shooting device. You can OPEN PISTOL to find BULLETS and then OPEN BULLETS to find GUNPOWDER. (Note that opening a bullet normally requires at least some pliers, but maybe they’re really old off-kilter bullets; trying to SHOOT anything doesn’t work so that might be why.)

There’s also some matches in a TIN in the starting knapsack.

Combining the two, you can PUT GUNPOWDER in the HOLE and LIGHT MATCH followed by LIGHT GUNPOWDER to cause an EXPLOSION.

(Ok, maybe not that neat a puzzle, as I probably would still have gotten stuck even had I found the gunpowder; the last bit of verb tomfoolery is very specific. If you BURN GUNPOWDER it says WON’T BURN.)

Going down the hole the explosion made leads to a chasm. Typing LOOK CHASM yields:


Getting the dagger was pretty rough too, but it follows the time-honored tradition of making animals solve puzzles for you. If you TIE BANANAS to the VINE from last time, then:



In addition to getting a treasure, I was able to >JUMP CHASM.

Naturally, all throne rooms have killer ants. Fortunately, I had an AARDVARK stuffed in my knapsack the whole time, as adventurers often do.



(As far as I know, aardvarks eat termites, not ants, but who am I to question the zoological knowledge of a 1980-era adventure writer?)

This let me reach a door, which I was then able to unlock and reach the outside, and then I hit the most terrible problem of all: a game-killing bug.

For whatever reason, on the TRS-80 Color Computer version, my inventory capacity got reduced, so when I went back to get my treasures and return them to the starting place, I found that even though I was only holding a flashlight, my hands were “FULL !”

Ah well, no problem. This is a short game, I can just redo my steps with the Ohio Scientific version of the game, right?

Oops. I guess not. I made a second attempt and got a bit farther, but still had a crash. According to the walkthrough I did find all the treasures (four of them: the sword, the dagger, and an amulet and gold deathmask in another part of the maze) so I’m fine closing the case here.

Posted November 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Pyramid (1980)   14 comments

Rodger Olson returns, he of Deathship, Escape to Mars, and a parser system written for the Ohio Scientific brand of computers that only understands the first two letters of each word.


The parser is a little better on this one; I’ll discuss that in a second, but first, you may be asking “wait, weren’t the previous games all text, why is there a picture?” Good question, Hypothetical Reader! While the original 1980 version of Pyramid is text-only, a later TRS-80 Color Computer version added pictures (and as far as I can tell so far, didn’t change anything else, but I’ll swap back and forth between the versions for a while to confirm).

While picking up items still doesn’t give any feedback, the game’s parser is now courteous enough to say if you didn’t pick something up correctly.




Dramatic! But in all seriousness, even this alone makes playing the game more comfortable.

Also, you can LOOK KNAPSACK to see what is inside and GET each item individually.





This may seem a bit underwhelming as a “feature” but compare to Escape from Mars where I literally had to test every verb in order to get at what was inside a pocket. Really, the game almost feels “normal” relative to 1980 now.

Also typical: a pyramid-themed game with a tricky opening where it’s easy to get stuck early. In addition to the starting items in the hut, I managed to find an AARDVARK, MONKEY, and BANANA in a desert as well as some VINES by a locked HEAVY DOOR at the front of the pyramid. I eventually was able to DIG to a new location:

To escape here I had to TAKE ROCKS, followed by PUT ROCKS; it asked


Doing so caused the cavern to flood; I was able to hop onto the boat and sail it south to an ancient cave. From there I headed up to an “Empty Treasure Room” with a SWORD and an ALTAR, and what appears to be the end of the road.

I can stand on the ALTAR and I assume there’s a secret lever or some such but I haven’t triggered anything yet. I am holding a SWORD, BANANAS, FLASHLIGHT, SHOVEL, AARDVARK, TIN, VINES and PISTOL. Also, I’m being followed around by the MONKEY although various permutations of FEED MONKEY or THROW BANANA do not yield any results.

The sword also says it is PROP. OF ALI BABBA. Anyone with an idea of what to do next?

(The C64 version of this is online, if you want an easy way to try it out.)

Posted November 21, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Devil’s Palace (1980)   2 comments

Here is the last of Greg Hassett’s adventures.

To recap, between the ages of 12 and 14 he wrote

1. Journey to the Center of the Earth
2. House of Seven Gables
3. King Tut’s Tomb
4. Sorcerer’s Castle Adventure
5. Journey to Atlantis
6. Enchanted Island
7. Mystery Mansion
8. World’s Edge
9. Curse of the Sasquatch
10. Devil’s Palace

He wasn’t quite done with TRS-80 software yet — his Asteroids clone Fasteroids came out in 1981 — but for the most part he bowed out of games before he even left high school.

What’s interesting about his rapid-fire set of works produced without a lot of self-consciousness (or spell-checking) is that there’s a strong sense of where Mr. Hassett’s design sensibility evolved (or didn’t).

On the unchanging side of things, starting from adventure #1 he included mazes which mostly consisted of rooms looping to themselves, a style he kept all the way to game #10.

Adventure #1 (Journey to the Center of the Earth) on the left, Adventure #6 (Enchanted Island) on the right.

Not everything stayed consistent; for example, adventures #2 and #4 both had enemies appear randomly through the geography (akin to the dwarf and pirate of Adventure) but by #5 he had dropped the idea and only had enemies in static locations.

By #7, Mystery Mansion, he introduced a “one-way plot” path where puzzles need to be solved in a sequence which shifts things from scene to scene.

Game #9 had the same idea but with a “loop” at the end which would go back to the beginning. Devil’s Palace continues with the idea and runs it maybe a little too far, for possibly a specific technical reason: this is the game where Greg Hassett finally introduces a save game feature. I think it’s quite possible the breeziness and only-rare deaths of his earlier games was simply to lack of saving, but once he had it in, he felt he could increase the difficulty.

Unfortunately, he didn’t increase the difficulty in a fun way; I wish I could say this is a good send-off for his work, but games #7-#9 were stronger than this one.

For one thing, Mystery Mansion, World’s Edge, and Curse of the Sasquatch all had genuine plots; goofy ones, perhaps, but ones with enough substance to be enjoyable. You may notice in the ad above it discusses using “your wits to enter the palace and conquer the evil which stalks the dismal corridors”. However, for most of the game I did not understand what the evil was or what we were trying to defeat.

You start with no context at all. There’s a forest with a “Cereberus” and a tree with a bird next holding a whistle. Blowing the whistle leads to death; a vulture picks you up, takes you to the nearby Devil’s Palace, and drops you in lava.

Eventually I found that the whistle could be blown next to the drawbridge to cause the bridge to go down. There seemed to be no reason behind this other than magic and I learned rather quickly that whenever obtaining a magic item or word, the appropriate action is to try it in every single room with the hope that it works. (This makes the game harder, yes, but forcing an effect to be hit by random chance does not make a good puzzle.)

You can then try to go across the drawbridge, but you are stopped because of an evil presence.

The sequence that follows is:

1.) You can go back into the tree and blow the whistle. The vulture that previously killed you before takes in you inside the castle. There’s at least a little logic here — I guess you can think of it as the VultureBus got stopped early when the drawbridge was up.

2.) This lands you in a room with no exits where you then need to blow the whistle again.

3.) By doing #2 you get in a room with a torch and a knocker. Knocking on the door leads to…

4.) …another room where you are trapped, but there are carvings where you can insert a fossil. This causes a cat statue to appear. You can then >RUB STATUE to get taken to yet another room.

5.) Again you are trapped, this time on a PRECARIOUS LEDGE OVERLOOKING A POOL OF LAVA. Earlier you can find a stone with the word “ETNAD” on it, and it works here; the ledge spins and you end up in “THE (D)ANTE-CHAMBER” where the map finally opens up again.

I’m not going to go into detail into every puzzle, but here’s one that comes right after:

You need the ruby, but if you try to take it, the crystalline figure stops you. If you BLOW WHISTLE you get the death result seen above; that part is fair enough. I needed a walkthrough to find out you can TAKE FIGURE (!!) and then just move it to another location and drop it, and if you then BLOW WHISTLE the figure will “vanish”.

The ruby lets you fire a laser into a network of caves, and after a bit more puzzle-solving, THE DEVIL’S SECRET MEDITATION ROOM. Really.

It’s really eeeeevil meditating, ok?

There’s a few good puzzles here but they’re interspersed with magic-nonsense. This finally leads to a tower with a sceptre that’s too evil too pick up.

Take a moment: how would you defeat the evil?

Would you think of … dropping the egg? Yes, dropping the egg.


I guess that was defeating the evil. Then you get can GET SCEPTRE, and SAY ETNAD to teleport out (no particular reason why the word would work here, it just does). To get out of the palace you find can a grate with the whispering sound “OPEN WITH SCEPTRE”.

Diagnosing the problem, overall, is simply: Greg Hassett never got much past two kinds of puzzles

a.) using magic words or items in arbitrary places

b.) using ITEM with OBSTACLE to get past it.

With only these two building blocks to work with, it was possible to make a relatively satisfying easy game like Mystery Mansion, but when he aspired to something harder, he had to resort to items with vague “magic” powers like the egg where it wasn’t remotely clear what they’d do. While there’s always room for a little solving-by-experiment in adventure games, the use of magic at least needs to make sense after the fact.

The games published by Scott Adams, by contrast, had “daemons” from the start, little timers and inter-relations between objects that allowed for complications. The stronger puzzles involved understanding this network of relations and seeing in terms of what cause might lead to what effect. (Offhand, both the final puzzle of Mystery Fun House and the heart puzzle in Pyramid of Doom required making far-reaching realizations.)

I’m curious where Greg Hassett would have gone from here. Devil’s Palace struck me as an experiment in uncharted territory, and the author never got the chance to master the art of making more complicated puzzles.

Posted November 20, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: God Mode   7 comments

The people have spoken, and want to know what God Mode is like.

To elaborate (in case anyone is hitting this post without reading the rest of them about Warp, although you probably should go do that first) after finishing the arduous journey of Warp you get a password customized for the username you played the game with.

>SAY “Pity this lonely monster manunkind not elhljoazfe”

Oh, hello! Are you God?


Okay, God, if you’re so smart, tell me what word follows “GO”?


Well, hot damn, you ARE God!

This is kind of like playing an Inform game in debug mode.

Newsstand. [Room 98, locale 0]
A large stand covered with hundreds of different newspapers and magazines stands before you. Further north, you can see a dark and forboding passage; there is a vast open space to the southeast.

I can see the following:
Newsstand, 4 Wpls, which contains:
a Magazine
a Newspaper
News Vendor, 120 Wpls

Typing HELP gives an expanded list of commands. Some are pretty general:

>help find

FIND allows you to locate any item in the game and get a brief description of where it is without suffering through all of the information listed by the REPORT command.

>help goto

The GOTO command allows you to move immediately to a specific room. The format is GOTO , where the room number is in the range of 1 to the maximum number of rooms allowed. You can find out which rooms are associated with which room numbers by using the LIST ROOMS command. It is also possible to goto the location of a specific object. The syntax for this command is GOTO .

One is quite randomly specific, although it’s interesting to see how the “customized randomness” in the endgame is made:

>help pitroom

The PITROOM command allows you to predict where the pit in the endgame will appear. Which “Corridor of Vines” room it will be found in is determined by the first two characters of your user name.

I tried using FIND on an object that “didn’t exist” yet.


Location is Limbo.

I tried teleporting around.

>list rooms 458

Engine Room. [Room 458, locale 0]

>goto 458

Engine Room. [Room 458, locale 0]
This room is obviously the engine room, as there are two rather large diesels occupying nearly all of the aft region. Most of the decor here is early steel, with numerous pipes, vents, valves, and gauges scattered about. I believe you’ve gone about as far below decks as you can go, as the massive steel-plate flooring upon which you stand offers no opening to go down any further. There is, however, a steel ladder leading up through a hole in the ceiling.

I can see the following:
Cannister, 999 Wpls
Engine, 9999 Wpls
Starter Switch, 0 Wpls

I tried listing the entire dictionary of verbs.

18 Affix 18 Attach 10 Attack 32 Bite 29 Board
49 Break 14 Burn 21 Check 33 Chew 34 Chomp
5 Climb 7 Close 18 Connect 2 Cram 48 Crush
43 Cut 27 Depress 10 Destroy 37 Detach 36 Devour
37 Disconnect 42 Don 2 Dorp 13 Drink 2 Drop
31 Eat 11 Enter 10 Extinguish 18 Fasten 39 Fill
30 Find 27 Flip 22 Gaze 3 Get 4 Give
18 Glue 5 Go 3 Grab 50 Hit 1 Hoist
14 Ignite 21 Inspect 45 Jump 51 Kick 10 Kill
30 Kiss 45 Leap 54 Lick 14 Light 30 Locate
28 Lock 23 Look 20 Lower 35 Munch 10 Murder
6 Open 18 Paste 45 Peel 38 Pet 40 Play
29 Pour 27 Press 52 Punch 27 Push 2 Put
1 Raise 26 Read 47 Register 44 Remove 99 Report
46 Revolve 29 Ride 46 Rotate 38 Rub 5 Run
15 Save 58 Scribble 41 Shoot 24 Shut 13 Sit
25 Slam 43 Slice 30 Smooch 10 Snuff 29 Spill
46 Spin 45 Spring 10 Stab 44 Stand 23 Stare
3 Steal 16 Step 18 Stick 16 Stomp 15 Store
2 Stuff 55 Suck 17 Swim 3 Take 2 Throw
18 Tie 46 Turn 46 Twist 26 Unlock 37 Untie
5 Walk 5 Wander 53 Wave 42 Wear 57 Write

Yes, “Dorp” is a verb. It’s a synonym for “Drop”.

I can’t think of anything I was dying to try that I haven’t been able to, but if someone wants to suggest some shenanigans in the comments, I’ll try it out.

Posted November 19, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: Finished!   8 comments

Yeah, I earned that exclamation mark. I was also right that finishing the game involved a pretty simple final action. I had given the Warpmaster a credit card but had trouble getting anything to happen, until:

>tell warpmaster “charge it”

The Warpmaster gives you a big smile, and proceeds to take out from under the counter a small charge card receipt printer. He skillfully places the card in the holder, and runs the handle across its face. He looks up at you and says,

“Just for our records, you know …
There! Snoitalutargnoc! You may now proceed!”

With a sweep of his arm, all about you vanishes.

This paved the way for

Mount of Enlightenment.
The air is filled with the heavenly singing of the muses praising those who have reached true enlightenment. Sunlight streams upon the summit in golden rays, bathing all they touch in a glorious golden glow. As others have before, you have reached the final goal of the Land of Warp. The power to control the entire world is within your grasp.

“Snoitalutargnoc,” exclaims the Warpmaster. “You have successfully completed all of the puzzles set before you, and are ready to gain True Enlightenment! By saying the following phrase, you will be endowed with much deserved godly powers:

Pity this lonely monster manunkind not elhljoazfe

Respond THIS IS GOD and NADS to the questions. I suggest you try it out. Amaze yourself! Amaze your friends!”

(This codeword is apparently customized for the username you play the game with.)

With that, the Warpmaster waves his arms, and everything about you begins to fade and disappear, leaving you in a worldless void …

Your endgame score after 347 commands (4 hours and 47 minutes of playing)
would be 100 out of a possible 100.
>>>>> WON COMPLETELY!!! <<<<<

Winning the game unlocks God Mode. Neat!

I’ve already put most of my general conclusions in prior posts (not being quite sure I’d even get to this point) so I don’t have too much to add. If you just read my posts you may want to go back and see the epic comment threads it took to get here. Thanks to anyone who has contributed to solving or even just made a general comment on any of my posts — the feeling of being part of a community is what helps keep me going on games like this.

In case you’re curious what’s left for 1980, there are 13 games:

Dragon-Quest Adventure by Charles Forsythe
Treasure Island, Journey Through Time by James Taranto and Joel Mick
Space Traveller, India Palace, Poseidon Adventure and Vial of Doom by Roger M. Wilcox
Devil’s Palace by Greg Hassett
G.F.S. Sorceress by Gary Bedrosian
Nuclear Submarine Adventure, Pyramid, Vampire Castle by Aardvark Software
His Majesty’s Ship “Impetuous” by Robert LaFore

I don’t know if I’ll make it before the end of 2019, but I’ll have fun trying.

Posted November 19, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: The Anguished and the Depraved   4 comments

I have made tiny progress based on Russell Karlberg noticing that there were two-identical looking rooms matching with the maze I was trudging through. You enter it through a “Globe Room” and I tested all possible maze exits (NE, N, NW, W, SW, S, SE) and found that going southeast led to that special room. Then it was just a matter of realizing I could go back northwest to a new location:

Globe Room.
You find yourself in a round, cup-shaped room. In the center of the room you see a man-sized hole in the floor, while to the east there is a cylindrical corridor leading slightly upward through the rock. On the floor, at roughly 45 degree intervals around the perimeter of the room, you note what appear to be small arrows chiseled into the rock, pointing outward from the center of the room.

Additional passageways have opened.


Montazuma’s Revenge.
The room about you is one of many constructed hundreds of years ago by the Great Ancients of Praw. The walls are unmarked rock, with exits leading in all directions. There is also a large hole in the ceiling (out of reach), and another in the floor.


Dark Woods of Error.
You find yourself in a dark and lonely wood. The passage from whence you came is lost, and before you in the distance you can see the godly summit of True Enlightenment.

I can see the following:
Ticket Plaza

Behind the plaza window you see the Warpmaster.

Looking at the plaza yields the amusement park graphic on the top of the post.

You would think it’d be easy from here, and maybe it is? I have a credit card and can hand it to the Warpmaster

>give card to warpmaster

Card given to Warpmaster.

The Warpmaster quickly inspects your Card and nods somewhat approvingly.
He says, “What am I to do with this?”

but I can’t otherwise get a ticket. I must be right at the end, because my endgame score is now 99 out of 100.

Posted November 18, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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IFComp 2019 Results, and my comments   2 comments

The 25th Interactive Fiction Competition is over, and the ratings and votes are all in. Congratulations to Steph Cherrywell for getting 1st place with Zozzled!

I never worked my notes up to anything approaching “reviews”, but I have here four recommended entries. Also note

a.) I didn’t play any of the parser games, at least not extensively enough to make a judgment (this is because Warp pretty much drained me during the time of judging; I’ll sit back and enjoy the games later)

b.) Even though I focused on the choice-based works I never came close to trying everything in that category.

Turandot by Victor Gijsbers

Based on the opera involving the Princess Turandot and a test of Three Riddles she gives potential suitors, although here it gets expanded into an entire dungeon of traps. You play as one of the suitors.

My favorite of the choice-based games, but do take the content warning seriously. The banter between the main characters is phenomenal. My only quibble is that there are some early choice-doesn’t-matter parts and while you do eventually start being able to make choices that affect things, it isn’t obvious when this happens, and the occasional not-really-a-choice moments still pop up. I often found myself meta-wondering if I should be really caring or not about a particular conversation line.

Heretic’s Hope by G.C. Baccaris

You live amongst insects as the only human. You get an (unwelcome?) promotion.

The interface and music here are the slickest of the competition, and the writing is fairly solid throughout. I did find myself not always feeling like I understood my choices that well (see the advisor choice above — by the time I really got an idea of who the insects were and what a particular choice meant, the story was over) but in the end this was still a good ride.

The good people by Pseudavid

The main character and their romantic partner Alice go to visit the ruins of a flooded village from the past.

I very much enjoyed the spare writing; I think Alice’s relationship with the main character might have been a little too vague for some of the intended payoff to kick in later, but I still found the plot satisfying.

Unfortunately (and this seems to be in common with many of the IFComp choice games this year) I didn’t always feel like I had much agency. (There are cases where denying interactivity in a piece of interactive fiction can be effective, but I find the technique to be overused.)

Limerick Heist by Pace Smith

Extremely snappy and clever: you assemble a team to steal a Faberge egg, but the entire thing is delivered in limericks.

We only have a poetry entry in IFComp once every few years, but I have seen what I believe to be all of them, and this is the best one.

Nitpick: this is short enough I can’t be too disappointed, but most of the interaction here is the all-or-nothing type — either you pick the correct choice and move on with the story, or you pick the wrong one and lose (the “deadly gauntlet”). I find this kind of structure exhausting, especially here where there isn’t a good way to think through the “best” way of doing many choices (except for one bit involving the rhyme structure of the limerick which made me laugh).

Posted November 17, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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