Archive for the ‘domes-of-kilgari’ Tag

The Domes of Kilgari (1981)   5 comments

In the far reaches of the Outrim, the Adventure continues.

80 Micro, February 1982.

Death Dreadnaught (1980) was a release of the Programmer’s Guild by “The Dog Brothers” who were probably Robert and Richard Arnstein. It was self-rated R (“due to EXTREME depictions of VIOLENCE”) and distinguished itself with an unusually high level of gore.

The Domes of Kilgari is instead by Alex Kreis (who talks briefly about it here) and was originally written with no relation at all to the other game, but Death Dreadnaught sold briskly enough that Kilgari was packaged as a sequel. There is a direct reference that’s integrated as part of the plot, so it’s not just a marketing ploy.

Not having the ability to save might be just lazy programming for some, but arguably the game here leverages it into a feature: your goal, to find an ion rod to fuel your ship, is mostly a linear quest with lots of stuff that can kill you, sometimes in amusing ways reminiscent of a Choose Your Own Adventure™ book. We have had a CYOA-style game with Assignment 45 where the restarts became tiresome, but they felt a little different here; mainly in that it feels possible to ratiocinate through the obstacles of Kilgari and live, whereas picking the “right” choice in Assignment 45 came off as random. (I wouldn’t call Kilgari’s deaths “fair” exactly either, just “not random”. Let me explain more when get to that in context.)

The required restarts enhance the gamebook feel, and the drastically low recognized verb list does as well:

READ, OPEN, KILL, THROW, PUSH, PULL, PRESS, SHOOT, CLOSE

(There’s also a couple “magic words” which are standalone verbs.)

One curious feature is despite the minimal parser, if you enter a verb, it will prompt for the noun

-CLOSE
CLOSE WHAT?

or if you just type the noun, it will prompt for the verb

-CARD
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE CARD?

(I recently saw a Twitter thread where someone was frustrated playing Zork because they heard a songbird and then just typed >BIRD with the typical Infocom response of needing a verb, followed by >BIRD IS THE VERB. People from the early 80s era, even when using bare-bones parsers, were aware of interaction problems people were having.)

You may incidentally notice my screenshots look slightly different from my other recent TRS-80 plays. I had to use Model I mode (the original computer from 1977) as opposed to the Model III mode (the version released 1980); I don’t know if this was related to emulator issues or the game would have genuine problems on a real Model III.

You start relatively safely, in a desert aboveground with an elevator; the first floor just has a card, an “ion meter” (not a measuring stick, a detector) and a lever that shuts off “LASER PROTECTION”. There’s a room later that fries you if you haven’t pulled the lever.

The second floor is where danger starts. There’s a locked door requiring a word from the card in the screenshot above to open (“SATURN”) followed by a second elevator with ominous vents:

A MEAN VOICE OUT OF THE FRONT PANEL SAYS, “GIVE THE PASSWORD TO GO TO LEVEL 3. NOW!” (I THINK YOU BETTER GIVE IT WHAT IT WANTS. THE VOICE SOUNDS AS IF IT MEANS BUSINESS!)

If you try to use SATURN again:

A VOICE FROM THE FRONT PANEL SAYS, “INCORRECT!”. AS IT SPEAKS, NOT-TOO-BENEFICIAL-FOR-THE-LUNGS GAS POURS OUT OF THE VENTS. OH WELL, SO WHAT IF THERE IS NO OXYGEN TO BREATHE?

The right move is another word from the card; it mentions the Digitron Corporation, and the right word is DIGITRON.

A VOICE FROM THE FRONT PANEL SAYS, “CORRECT. GOING TO LEVEL 3.”

Looping back to what I said about “not random” but also not exactly “fair”, this is a good example — in a real-world logical sense it doesn’t make sense that the code word is Digitron, but in a game-reality sense it came to me quite quickly to try it. It never would have been my first try, but I still found it satisfying to solve.

Moving on, a red herring:

Yes, it’s another in the long list of weapons in adventure games that are unhelpful. There’s temptation to use it later, but it’s a trap.

Moving in farther gets you close to a “blue rectangle”, which is described as being inside a ring of rooms:

Here you get fair warning of a deathtrap; the “Core Observation Floor” mentions the passage north is hot, and if you (wisely) try the other direction you find some insulation.

The insulation is sufficient to get you past the red-marked room and death by heat. (In Assignment 45, the wrong direction would have just melted you without warning, so the player gets denied making a rational choice.)

You next pass by an emergency exit, and enter “The Rectangle”.

Going down at the next level, you find a room which is blank except for encouraging you to use a “magic word”. On the same level, you find a monster, try to use violence, and die.

This is the Death Dreadnaught reference; the creature there is “multilegged, flat-faced, one-eyed, elephant-nosed”, which I’d say is close enough, especially because you can attempt the solution from the original game, which was to throw your weapon (it would accidentally shoot itself).

The weapon, as I said, is a total red herring. Back in the rectangle where you “barely see” an exit down, it turns out you can go up as well. There you find a “miniature rubber monster” which you can take back to the real one:

WHEN YOU DROP THE RUBBER MONSTER, THE CREATURE LOOKS AT IT AND THINKS IT IS A MIRROR IMAGE OF HIM. HE LETS OUT A SHREAK AND RUNS OFF.

Past the monster is a protection suit, that you need for the next obstacle.

Here’s what happens without the suit.

Notice, again, the game tries to give warning: the ion meter from earlier starts going off, and it’s quite possible to veer away and only return once the suit is in hand. (Of course, as a chronicler, I had to experience the deaths for recording purposes, and I didn’t plow ahead just because I thought I’d be lucky and there’s only be a time limit or some such. Nope, didn’t do that. Speaking of time limits, there doesn’t seem to be any until right to the end, which is another gesture towards fairness.)

Getting by the ions allowed grabbing a key, which opens a nearby door with a convenient box for containing ion rods (albeit an easy-to-miss one, the exit is not described), and a hint about that “magic word” room from earlier.

Not too rough; I’ll leave the identity of the magic word unspoiled for anyone who wants to solve it.

The magic word then leads to THE FINAL COUNTDOWN.

I knew something was fishy with “RODA” but I decided to go with it.

Rushing to the emergency exit, I tried to leave and died. The exit was tight, and I couldn’t carry my inventory through so I wasted time dropping stuff. Oddly, the game has no general inventory limit, but that allows for the trap where it gets enforced.

Another go: this time I dropped everything but the box. I was able to get RODA, slide out the emergency exit, drop the rod in the ship at the start of the game.

I absolutely knew this was coming, but I wanted to see it. Nice job, game. (Again, not “fair”, but not “random” either, especially given the meta-parser hint about there being multiple rods.)

Even though not described, the room that has RODA lets you go south to find RODB and south again to RODC. RODC is the one that’s just right.

Fun for what it was, I suppose; I was in the right mood so the deaths gave me amusement rather than frustration. I’m glad it didn’t go any longer (see: no saved game feature, having to retrace my steps every single death).

We’re nearing the end of Programmer’s Guild games. This April 1982 ad I believe shows all of them.

80-US Journal, April 1982.

Gauntlet of Death and Maze of Darkness are semi-roguelike action games. (From the latter: “The MAZE is filled with invisible traps, avoidable only by the skilled, the experienced and the lucky. To move your figure through the MAZE, use the arrow keys.”)

That leaves Deadly Dungeon, which I’ll be playing next. It will bring us the return of Don and Freda Boner (previously: Thunder Road). It looks like there are RPG elements, but we’ll see?

Posted December 8, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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