Archive for the ‘gfs-sorceress’ Tag

G.F.S. Sorceress: DO NOT GO NEAR ANY ROBOT, NO MATTER WHAT ITS APPARENT CONDITION   12 comments

I have finished the game, so <TRANSLATOR ON> INSERT STANDARD SPOILER WARNING HERE <TRANSLATOR OFF>

I first must confess: I handled the lore entirely wrong. The start of the “Officer Manual” is meant to be read before playing, but then there is a transition to an “Officer’s Supplement” with “Books” meant to be read only when they are encountered in the game, rather like the paragraphs in a Gold Box game. It’s quite possible to play a long time without seeing the proper “book text” and the revelation of X was not really meant to come until the end. Having said that, I doubt many people really did read things in the “right order” — there’s only 8 “books” and when flipping through the manual so it’s hard to avoid seeing the pertinent information early. (The switch in the manual between “go ahead and read this” and “save this for the game” is also weakly signaled.)

It did mean my assumption that X’s motivation was to avoid being caught was a little off — his paranoia may have still be set off by the racketball incident, but Joe Justin probably didn’t know enough from standard officer training to be aware of X’s existence.

The G.F.S. Sorceress can visit five planets: Altair IV, Tau Ceti III, Sol III, Epsilon Eridani V, and Rigel X. Sol III is Earth and needs to go last (the game is over if you go, and you’ve either won or lost depending on what you found). They can be visited in any order, which is good in a freedom-of-choice way, and bad in a for-the-most-part-you-can’t-solve-out-of order way. I made things even worse for myself by starting with the correct planet (Rigel X, depicted above) and missing a key item, a translator. Without the translator there’s a lot of text like this:

YOU SEE A STONE ARCHWAY CARVED IN ROCK AT THE LOWER END OF THE TUNNEL. AN ANKH SYMBOL IS CARVED ABOVE THE ARCH AND AN INSCRIPTION READS: “CJRJTSL MYJGA MVIY KXVR AMK XQF. DJ, YNL LHNZOKAS, HBGPY FTAY XLYAYS”

That’s not a cryptogram. (Using a cryptogram solver on the first sentence yields such gems as BOROUGH KNOTS KILN YMIR SKY MAW.)

Getting past the translation issue is necessary to solve most of the puzzles in the game, so I had a long period of being stuck wandering the planets until I re-re-visited Rigel X and found a GOLD BOX right in the open that indicated it was a translator.

In the same area, I found a SILVER BOX and a ROBOT as well as a book that was a Robot Mark IX User’s Manual.

Immediately below the robot instruction manual in the physical game’s manual was “Book 8” which shows up nowhere in the game, but it was hard to avoid seeing warnings like IF YOU ARE ARMED, SHOOT ANY ROBOT ON SIGHT.

The robot is controlled just like the player, only with prefacing all commands with ROBOT. In doing so the player actually “becomes” the robot in the duration, and the display screen is taken over by the robot’s view.

Driving the robot around was my favorite part of the game; it reminded me of Suspended.

The next planet on my quest was the desert planet was Epsilon Eridani V.

This is where you get swallowed by a sand worm as I hinted in my last post.

After a while I did get used to the idea of a single command possibly taking days, months, or years of in-game time.

You then get dropped in a cavern with a sand crab. If you have the translator the crab says that YOU SPEAK THE SACRED LANGUAGE ONLY KNOWN TO THE CHOSEN and lets you through, whereupon you find a room with crystals, sleeping gas (your spacesuit protects you), and most importantly, a GOLD NUGGET which is useful later.

You can incidentally blast the crab with your pistol. This makes you stuck and is Yet Another Infamous Adventure Game Softlock, but thematically, I kind of like the idea of having a player who tries to use violence for everything receiving some sort of consequence.

Past the desert planet comes the jungle: Tau Ceti III.

There’s an archway with the message WELCOME, GREAT GODS FROM THE SKY. WE, THE FAITHFUL, WAIT FOR YOUR RETURN. (This is the same as the not-cryptogram above, so if anyone wants to take a crack at what the real encryption is, you’re welcome to try.) Just past the archway is a tablet that reads HONOR WITH THE WATER OF LIFE THE GOD WHO GIVES THE TOKEN OF LIFE – BOOK OF THE SKY GODS, CHAPTER 9, VERSE 21. Just past the tablet is a lizard; if you take a golden ankh that has been on the Sorceress not doing anything, you get sprayed.

This “slippery” spray helps get you past an ARACHNID later and steal a WEB that’ll you’ll need for the next stop: the temperate planet of Altair IV.

I found an old, abandoned castle after making it through a hidden path in a forest, but was stymied by a concrete wall which clearly was hiding something. I still had my xenon pistol but blasting with the pistol indicated I was just blowing off small chunks and didn’t have enough firepower.

Here is where I needed my robot buddy to make the ultimate sacrifice.

>ROBOT PUSH VIOLET BUTTON

THERE IS A BEEP SOUND FROM THE PISTOL AND A COMPUTER VOICE SAYS: “ARMED”

>ROBOT DROP PISTOL

ACKNOWLEDGED.

THE PISTOL HITS A BIT TOO HARD WHEN DROPPED. IT STARTS TO WHINE. LOOK OUT! THE PISTOL EXPLODES IN A SMALL ROOM. FLASH! ZZZZ POP! A PUFF OF SMOKE APPEARS.

POP! A TINY PUFF OF SMOKE RISES FROM THE SILVER BOX.

sadface

Past the wall was a secret archive with a killer robot (this is where the WEB came in handy) and two books: one with the details about X, and another with legal code information that indicates someone who is ejected into space for mutiny is allowed a retrial if they can make it back to Earth. (It must be one of those abstruse specific-case laws from the old times, like one that gives fines if ducks are wearing sweaters or you eat jam on a Tuesday.)

However, if you just try to cart the books out, you get zapped by a force field! The trick here is to put in two replacement books for the two you are taking. When I hit this I had left the other two books from the game behind on the ice planet. (There’s a pretty right inventory limit, three items plus the spacesuit, and the translator takes up one of the slots already.) This meant to get by a puzzle, I had to fly to a different planet and back which involved the passage of six years of time.

After that moment of narrative whiplash, I took my evidence back to Earth for one final slumber-trip.

This was a little more ambitious in terms of narrative than Empire of the Over-Mind but it consequently fell down on a few spots; rather than a wide-open design that allowed multiple solutions, it ended up fairly linear. Rather than a cast of characters to help, there was only in essence one (I’m not even counting Selena, who just had the brief cameos at the start and end). There were awkward plot holes and too many improbable situations. (I wouldn’t say they were any more improbable than a typical 1980-era adventure, but this game tried to hold a bit more of a load with its story and thus the issue became much starker.)

Still, there was at least something “natural” in all the puzzle-actions; G.F.S. Sorceress did manage to unite actions and plot such that each propelled the other. Unfortunately, other than the Deluxe version of Empire of the Over-Mind, this is where Gary Bedrosian broke off his adventure-designing career; all three of the games definitely showed original thinking and had aspects (like the time compression and expansion) that would be fresh even for a new game.

And that’s it for 1980! 1981 brings us a fresh set of 100-or-so games, including …

  • Michael Berlyn’s first two games
  • Yet another long and difficult Phoenix game
  • The first extensive conversion of a book into a text adventure
  • Zork II
  • More 3-D adventure shenanigans with Med Systems
  • What is allegedly one of the most evil Apple II games ever made

… and some more surprises besides. Thanks for reading this far!

Posted January 2, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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G.F.S. Sorceress: 0.87c   2 comments

It is THE FUTURE. The year NINETEEN NINETY FIVE.

Earth discovers, via radio receivers, a transmission from the center of the galaxy. The transmission continues for thirty years before mysteriously cutting off.

The signals, while never fully decoded, were sufficient to jumpstart giant leaps in technology, including xenon energy storage and magnetic recoil reaction drive. The two together would enable ships to travel to the stars, eventually with ships reaching 87% the speed of light.

Noteworthy in the lore for G.F.S. Sorceress is that there is no faster-than-light travel and the distances between star systems are “realistic”, so several (or many!) years may elapse in a single trip. Relativistic effects also apply (so 12 years to observers appear to be 6 years on the ship). This has gameplay ramifications I’ll get back to later.

It is THE PAST, roughly around 1500 CE in Earth years, on the planet Epsilon Indii II.

A scientist (whose original name is unknown, and is simply referred to as X) was conducting experiments with organ regeneration when he “accidentally dosed himself with the entire research serum.”

He discovered the next day he suddenly had the power to change his body at will; not only appearance but number of limbs and species. As a consequence of this, he could also heal any physical injury immediately (since he could just reshape the affected body section).

He used this power not for good, but for evil.

X’s typical modus operandi is to infiltrate positions of authority by murdering a superior in front of witnesses while disguised as one of his rivals for the newly vacant post. Preferred targets are military installations whose weapons can be turned against helpless civilian population centers. Over three hundred major cities and five entire planets (including his own) have been conclusively proven to have been destroyed by X.

His shape-shifting and regeneration abilities have made him essentially immortal. He is still at large at the time our story begins.

X’s original, long-discarded appearance.

Fast forward to 2582:

The main character of our story is Joe Justin, Weapons Officer on the G.F.S. Rheingold.

This has been one of those weeks that start badly and end worse. I am beginning to doubt either my memory or my sanity — probably my sanity is slipping away as I drift abandoned in interstellar space.

His troubles start with a low-gravity racketball match against the Executive Officer of the Rheingold, Commander Bernard Taub. Amidst a particular tense round, Joe accidentally injures the Commander, but moments later there appears to be no wound and the Commander himself denies anything happened. Afterwards, Joe notices blood on his racket.

Later, the Commander does a surprise inspection of quarters and seemingly ignores the blood still on Joe’s racket.

A week later, Joe has just finished covering a shift for a crewmate when he is dragged out of bed and brought to the brig, and then to a makeshift interstellar court marshal, officiated by the ship’s computer, with Commander Taub as prosecutor.

The ship’s captain had been just murdered, and there was damning evidence: a video clearly showing Joe Justin walking into the command module and shooting the captain, in full view of witnesses.

The punishment for mutiny and murder is ejection into the vacuum of space. This is where the player’s control of the story begins.

Commander Taub is of course not really Commander Taub, but X. His inspection of the racket was just confirming that our hero had learned something very dangerous to know, if Joe were to connect the dots. (In fact, one can assume, since we are now controlling Joe Justin, we realize what just happened whilst staring into the blankness of space.)

YOU ARE FLOATING IN SPACE. YOU SEE STARS AND A FAINT ION TRAIL.

YOU ARE WEARING A SPACESUIT. YOU ARE CARRYING NOTHING SPECIAL.

While the Rheingold is now long gone — presumably with X now as its captain — Joe has the almost astronomically lucky fortune of being nearby another ship, the G.F.S. Sorceress which just suffered a collision with a meteor storm as is similarly just floating in space.

I left off last time making it inside the ship but getting eaten by an AMOEBOID. I also found a “young woman” in another part of the ship but she shot me immediately upon entering and threw me out of the room.

It turns out to be necessary to defeat the amoeboid first; the lore necessary to solve the puzzle is jammed somewhat awkwardly in the middle of the short story I summarized above.

However, when exposed to the activated xenon gas from a leak in a starship’s fuel tanks, an amoeboid can grow very quickly to an alarming size and become a menace to the safety of the entire ship. When that happens, standard weapons are of no avail because the creatures are able to absorb energy or projectiles. The only solution is for some brave volunteer to duck by the amoeboid (which never goes far from the source of the xenon) and patch the leak or shut the open valve.

The solution here was to SHUT VALVE. I had already tried to TURN and CLOSE the valve with no success so this was almost like a copy-protection check where I had to work out the correct word.

TURN, TURN, TURN. THE VALVE IS TIGHTLY SHUT.

THE AMOEBOID IS SHRINKING… SHRINKING… IT VANISHES!

Once the amoeboid is gone, the woman in the other part of the ship doesn’t shoot you on sight anymore.

SHE SAYS: “I AM CAPTAIN SELENA SAKAROV OF THE G.F.S. SORCERESS. YOU ARE A STRANGER TO ME AND I HAD TO TEST YOUR COURAGE.”

Soon after:

HE SAYS: “PERHAPS WE CAN DEVELOP A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP AFTER YOU ESTABLISH YOUR INNOCENCE. FOR NOW, YOU HAVE COMMAND OF THE SHIP. I WILL BE IN HYBERNATION UNTIL OUR RETURN TO EARTH.” SHE SASHAYS OFF TO THE HYBERNATION ROOM.

I feel like the conversation is missing a few beats here. We just got ejected from another ship but we’re now given command of this one? I could see “have a conversation about X where Joe Justin is very convincing” might fit the story logic, but as it went I was a little puzzled. (Also, somewhat sad this meant I didn’t have a snarky NPC following around during the adventure.) But at least the premise is now setup: we’ve been framed by a shape-shifter, and before we can return to Earth, we have to prove our innocence.

Story jump aside, we now have a ship that can fly around.

In another game, pushing a button for a planet might cause a little time to pass as the hyperdrive does some magical things, but remember the lore: no faster-than-light travel. So the button locks in a destination, and then you have to go into cold sleep and several years pass. Since this is a planet-hopping type adventure, it means in all likelihood the game will take place over 20+ years.

I’ll get into detail on the planets themselves next time, but I should note the time compression/expansion pattern continues on the planets themselves; a particular action might be just walking from one room to another, or it might involve walking several kilometers, or it might involve spending several weeks inside a space worm.

Posted December 30, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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G.F.S. Sorceress (1980)   1 comment

G.F.S. SORCERESS is a science fiction adventure game which is actually the first part of the continuing saga of Joe Justin and Selena Sakarov aboard the Galactic Federation Starship Sorceress. In the game, you will take the part of Joe Justin as he attempts to clear himself of a false charge of mutiny. Be sure to read the short story which accompanies the game to get the flavor of this adventure, not to mention some useful clues!

As the game begins Lieutenant Joe Justin has just been convicted of mutiny and murder on the G.F.S. Rheingold, and summarily shoved out of the airlock. Equipped with only a standard-issue spacesuit, you, as Joe Justin, must find a way to return to earth with evidence that will unequivocally prove your innocence. To do this, you must first find and repair a starship, then explore strange new worlds.

— From the Instruction Manual for G.F.S. Sorceress

Gary Bedrosian (Lords of Karma, Empire of the Over-Mind) finished his adventure trilogy with G.F.S Sorceress.

I’ve saved this for last in my 1980 sequence because:

1.) I wanted to end with something I knew would be “substantial”; since Empire of the Over-Mind still remains one of the best games I’ve played in this project, I knew the follow-up would at least be interesting.

2.) The packaging came with “lore” including a short story and a “Naval Officer’s Manual” separate from the instructions, so I knew there would be lots of material to draw from.

3.) This is only sort-of a 1980 game; the author states it was written in 1980 and that’s what I’m using, but the opening title screen for the Apple II version I’m playing gives a copyright of 1981 and most physical copies out there give a copyright of 1982.

In general, I’ve been using date of writing rather than release — the Roger M. Wilcox games I just played, for instance, really only make sense in 1980, and some of the mainframe games like Haunt and Warp never had a “release” at all. Despite that, this feels like a game I can use to bridge the gap to 1981.

As the manual text implies, you start floating in space, but nearby a vessel. The vessel is itself stalled in space and appears to have suffered meteor attacks. I went to a hatch in the middle, used the airlock to go inside and …

… was reminded of the big problem with Empire of the Over-Mind, which is that there are no standard north/south/east/west directions and it makes the world confusing to visualize and map. I thought perhaps things would be better with this game — it even makes sense thematically to be lacking standard orientation in space — but this early room description with five different colors of hatches and three different colors of signs disabused me of the notion. I tried the red hatch first.

The text style somewhat buries the lede, and it took me a bit of processing before I noticed the “SPACE AMOEBOID”.

I’m going to have to get myself oriented, and probably study the external material (in Empire of the Over-Mind the poem that came with the game included essential information, basically the first Infocom-style feelie for an adventure game, and I expect this game to have similar circumstances).

Still, the production value is high and I expect good things — the manual lists six testers. Six! Most games from this era were lucky to get one.

Posted December 19, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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