Archive for the ‘goblins-81’ Tag

Goblins: Finished!   4 comments

Yes, I finished, for real. I honestly thought I was going to have to write a “I throw in the towel” post, but not this time. I’m a little late for the contest.




The game had two pieces of suffering left for me.

First, there is a “book” where reading it just says


However, if you >READ COVER, you get the response below:

This is a magic word hint. IGPA manipulates an Egyptian scarab which you normally can’t pick up, but IGPA will teleport it to your current location.

Second: There’s a scene with an ogre that I used as the very first picture of my series. If you try to take the money next to the ogre he will fling you away.

You can go a little past this part and “poke your head up” to see the money from a maze that goes underneath this spot.

However, if you take the money here the ogre will just kill you. It turns out, even though you can’t see it, you can still >GET MONEY while in the room underneath.

The ogre will then give chase, but you can maneuver in the maze in such a way a passage collapses and the ogre gets buried under rocks. (This puzzle in itself wasn’t bad, it was just the action that set the sequence off that was unfair to find!)

These events had such a blatant disregard for the standard rules of the parser I had to stop playing for about a week after I got through them. I really shouldn’t be getting this upset at a 40-year old game. Somehow I got through Philosopher’s Quest and Quondam without feeling this rattled, but despite their cruelty, those games fell in the narrow range of fair play. Asking to get an item that is not present or read a book cover as a separate command from reading a book were more like interface missteps. After spending a long time on a puzzle, finding out you missed a solve due to “interface” is like getting part-way through a crossword puzzle and finding out that half of the words are random gibberish.

Positive interlude, since this post is otherwise negative: I liked this moment where you ride a tiny dragon.

Two more events of note: there’s a note where the pin attaching the note is a treasure. (Below is shown the game picture after “TAKE NOTE” – there is no text description of the pin.)

This seems clever in a subversion-of-expectations sense? I don’t know if it was quite implemented correctly – it still seems like the puzzle would be fairer in an all-text game (more on that in a second).

There was a spot where you could LOOK GROUND (unprompted, of course, argh!) and find a ring; RUB RING then turned you invisible and let you get away from the goblins following you around. Part of my issue was realizing I was getting followed around in the first place; again, as a text-only game I would have been less befuddled.

At the end of this animation you can see one of the goblins peek out. This isn’t consistent or regular, so it was very hard to understand I was being “followed” and not just that goblins were coming at random.

As mentioned back in my first post, Goblins was originally written in 1979 as an all-text game. We fortunately have a very good idea what it was like, because there’s a map of the 1979 version.

A larger version of this map is at the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities.

None of the “graphics only” locations are included here. A lot of the puzzles seem to be fairer (for example, the sign announcing royal visitor being welcome seems to be the exact same room you wave the boot); the pin and chased-by-goblins puzzles also seem easier. The fact everything is more compact with less “fluff” locations would (probably) lead to a more satisfying experience.

(Click on the image to get my full map of the 1981 version of Goblins.)

In any case, it’s good I have the old map, because I’ll be tackling Wizard and the Princess next; it allegedly ripped off (“a dozen similarities”) the 1979 version of Goblins. I’m just hoping if it did borrow some things, it borrowed more of the good parts (I suppose the atmosphere?) and less of the irritating parser abuse.

Posted January 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Goblins: Deduction vs. Abduction   6 comments

Alas, I have not quite finished yet. Perhaps this post will give a hint as to why. But first, a brief detour into Sherlock Holmes.

From the start of The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle:

When I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes cases between the years ’82 and ’90, I am faced by so many which present strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave. Some, however, have already gained publicity through the papers, and others have not offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend possessed in so high a degree, and which it is the object of these papers to illustrate. Some, too, have baffled his analytical skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an ending, while others have been but partially cleared up, and have their explanations founded rather upon conjecture and surmise than on that absolute logical proof which was so dear to him.

Sherlock Holmes is oft-stated to always conclude things based on airtight deduction, having a set of facts whereupon to build a case where there can be no other conclusion. However, quite often the character relies on abduction, which instead a probability-based guess based on circumstances. Later, in the same story, a young man arrives:

“Give me your coat and umbrella,” said Holmes. “They may rest here on the hook and will be dry presently. You have come up from the south-west, I see.”

“Yes, from Horsham.”

“That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon your toe caps is quite distinctive.”

The supposition made here is most likely correct, but hardly the only possible one; perhaps the man stole the shoes from someone else who resided in the area. Still, Sherlock Holmes’s inference is the best explanation, likely enough that the reader doesn’t notice it’s not an “absolute logical proof” in the same manner as mathematically proving that 1 + 1 = 2.

To summarize: with deduction, we have fully known rules and circumstances that when together force some kind of conclusion. With abduction, we have circumstances where we have to infer the chain of events, but it’s a probabilistic guess.

By the treehouse where all the treasures are stored in Goblins there is an “old boot”. There is no more detail other than that.

After long frustration I ended up checking a “hint sheet” that was given with the game, and found this:

Submarine. The sub may be surfaced by waving the boot (which was originally fished from the sea) at the beach where the fish is carrying the welcome sign. Be sure to bring the compass when using the sub or all is lost!

I went to the place with the welcome sign …

… and found WAVE BOOT had no effect, nor did any other attempt at using a magical item. No, it turns out you have to be in the bay just north of this part of the beach, and then the action works.

This happens to be an unusually prominent spot for me to highlight an issue with adventure games. I feel like a lot of adventure game writers think they are writing puzzles which will be solved via the process of deduction, but the player needs to use abduction instead.

The author knew the boot was fished from the sea, but somehow failed to convey this fact. The author knew the nature of the boot’s magic. The author knew the boot’s magic could be activated via waving. The author knew the “royal entrance” was next to the sign, but not right at it. If given all those facts, it’s possible to logically conclude both that WAVE BOOT is the right action and where it should be done; without these facts, the player is instead using abduction. They can see the crime scene after the fact and can only make their best guess about what to do.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; a confirmed conclusion from abduction can be highly satisfying. However, it needs to be a most likely conclusion, not one plausible theory out of ten. Many authors are tentative about giving “excess hints” to a puzzle in a game, but they have to keep in mind the player is always working via abduction, and making a puzzle solution 10% more likely to be correct isn’t the same as “giving a puzzle away”.

Posted January 11, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Goblins: Everything is Magic   4 comments

With everything (mostly) mapped, it was time to tackle the puzzles. I got two from meta-thinking.

The first one involved an animation:

Now, this comes from early in the game – in fact, it was the first thing that happened to me – and I had just happened to have read the in-game instructions, which mention DUCK as a command. DUCK, in fact, works to avoid dying, and you can pick up the boomerang afterward.

This is entirely a visual puzzle. I found it mystifying at first just reacting to something displayed on screen as opposed to parsing text and thinking about it.

I later decided it would be a good idea to hunt for verbs, so I went through a big test list and came up with some the game seemed to accept:


If a verb isn’t recognized at all the game says “I CAN’T DO THAT”. If it is recognized it will either attempt the action (for a verb like DUCK) or say “TRY TWO WORDS – MAYBE”.

This list isn’t necessarily comprehensive, but it gave me a starting point. In particular, looking at the fact KNOCK worked, and remember there was a place later with a locked door, I tried KNOCK and it worked, netting me a treasure inside. (This was yet another meta-solve; not really the sort of thing that makes sense if we imagine the “real character” in the world trying to figure the problem out, just me leveraging the system of the game.)

Also, this was another purely visual room, with no text description or feedback that the action solved a puzzle other than the graphics changed.

Unfortunately, further progress required the “try everything on everything” strategy. Essentially, you have to assume everything is magic, and the magic will do nothing unless you are in the right place. For example, there’s a piece of cheese that says “VERY TASTY” if you eat it – fair enough, maybe there’s a mouse later or someone you can bribe? Apparently, though, the magic works if you’re next to a tiny hole …

… at which point eating the cheese shrinks you down and you can enter. Really, this wouldn’t be bad except for it not making any sense the cheese only working to shrink the player when near the hole. Alas, this game falls to the too-common error of letting magic do anything with no particular logic to it, so the player is just forced to experiment wildly.

Take, for example this puzzle:

Would you think to DROP LIME?

I guess there’s … some sort of vague pun involved, because there is lime in some cement, but that’s a totally different kind of lime than the one you eat, and you can otherwise treat the limes like normal limes. If you THROW LIME in an adjacent room, you can get by the quicksand without dying, and find a caterpillar. The way things are going I expect the caterpillar to shoot out laser beams and open a portal to an alternate dimension as long as it’s dropped in a random spot in the forest.

Posted December 19, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Goblins: Terrible Maps   5 comments

Goblins start you off able to access a *very* large chunk of the map – I’m going to guess, by the capacity of Apple II games, most of it — and most of is terrible. Take a look at the outdoor section above. Starting at “By Lake”, N, SW, S, NW gets you back to where you started. While outdoors. Argh!

The troubles are triple-multiplied by the minimal descriptions also saying nothing about room exits. The only way to tell what the room exits are is to thoroughly test N, S, W, E, NE, SE, SW, NW, U, and D. In every single room in the game. Yes, I had to do this with all of them. It made mapping incredibly slow.

Of course there is a maze. Hoo boy, is there a maze.

This really doesn’t look so bad, does it? However.

a.) Any exit that’s not displayed on the map actually does a loop. I had to keep track of which loops I tested as I went along.

b.) Sometimes (randomly) instead of a loop, you find a “smelly tunnel” and go to a random location in the maze instead. It took me a while to catch on to this and some parts of my map were originally wrong.

c.) The goblins are still out and about and occasionally killing you. I ran out of items to drop in rooms for mapping purposes and tried to go out and get more, but I couldn’t because they kept stabbing me. I ended up resorting to moving the knife around (see “knife 1”, “knife 2”, “knife 3”) and hoping that it wouldn’t get things totally confused.

d.) Unless I’m missing something, the maze is essentially useless – notice it just goes in a loop, with no treasures indicated. There’s a room to the left of the starting room (“Light From Above”) that you can use to poke your head above ground and get killed by the silly-looking ogre you saw from my last post, but that doesn’t require navigating the maze at all.

It’s possible a lot of this was “busy work” trying to justify the game being commercial (it sold for $27.50; in 2017 dollars that would be $75.26).

There is one saving grace, and that is the “safe place” the game wants you to store treasures in has a magic word associated with it — two, in fact. HXME (found on a tree) takes all objects the player is carrying and teleports them to a treehouse, while QIM (found in a mine) will teleport the player (but not what they’re carrying). So you can choose to teleport just treasures to the treehouse, or you can just teleport yourself, or you can teleport both. This has been genuinely handy in a few circumstances, and I don’t recall it in any other game I’ve played.

There’s a little animation of the ghost moving around when you enter (the ghost is that blob-thing in the upper-left of the picture). It doesn’t seem to be either friendly or hostile, it just floats there. I don’t know if I’m supposed to banish it or come up with a way to ally with it or whatnot yet.

I’m at the point now I have a list of objects and obstacles, but they’re all far apart from each other. I’m going to tilt this game over from “easy” to at least “annoying” but it’s starting to lean to the “hard”; I need to keep going to be sure.

Posted December 14, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Goblins (1979, 1981)   1 comment

We just went through a game Roberta Williams explicitly cited as an influence. But what if there was an influence that was intentionally left out?

Goblins was originally a text-only adventure game for Apple II by Hal Antonson and Linda Stix:

We sent the program to Programma International in California for publishing. It was “released” in 1979. This version was strictly text. There were no graphics. I have forgotten how many copies for which we were paid. I think it was 13 or 30! An interesting note. Roberta and Ken Williams had just moved to Coarsegold and had started Sierra Systems. They had a copy from Programma. Ken was the assembler guy and Roberta became the Queen of fantasy games. There are a dozen similarities in their first game, “The Wizard and the Princess,” to Goblins.

In 1981, a version with graphics was published by Highlands Computer Services. This is the version that survives today.

I’m not sure what to think of the above story – The Wizard and the Princess (from 1980) isn’t the Williams’ first game, and the business names they went through were On-Line Systems and Sierra On-Line respectively. I can chalk the discrepancies up the usual fuzziness of memory, but it means the rest of the story may include some of the same fuzziness. Really, the easiest way to confirm the link is to play the two games. Since Goblins theoretically came first chronologically, I’m playing it first.

However, the 1981 game clearly isn’t identical to the 1979 one. If Sierra borrowed from Goblins, then Goblins must have borrowed back from Sierra, because this game includes some rooms that are described purely by the visuals, which wouldn’t work in a text-only game.

These rooms are scattered throughout regular named text rooms, although the rooms are quite minimally described. (There’s enough of them I can understand why – the game undoubtedly pushed a disk capacity limit.)

Every item has an associated picture which gets drawn on top of the room graphic (those two strange ovals are the limes).

In any case, the premise is that you are tromping through “goblin country”. From the instructions:




Every once in a while you get attacked by a goblin, with a random chance at killing the player. As far as I can tell so far there is no way to evade or avoid this, which means sometimes the player just dies because a random number generator decreed it to be so.

I’ll report back when I have more of the map filled in; I still can’t tell yet if this is going to be an easy game or a toughie.

Posted December 13, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with