Archive for the ‘hunt-the-wumpus’ Tag

Before Adventure, Part 5: Wumpus 2 and 3   5 comments

Wumpus 2 took the same mechanics as the first game and added some new cave layouts (including a “make your own” option). I tried each a few times to feel out if there were any gameplay differences. (I used this C64 version which seems to be accurate and bug-free.)

Cave 1 (Mobius Strip): Very easy: this is just essentially two rows

20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-4-2
19-17-15-13-11- 9-7-5-3-1

although the 2 goes to 19, and the 1 goes to 20 — that’s the “half-twist” of the Mobius Strip.

It’s possible to get entirely blocked off, but it isn’t terribly common (imagine pits at 3 and 6, with bats at 13 and 12) and for the most part the easier-to-visualize geography also made it much faster to play.

I also noticed you don’t really need to know where the Wumpus is to get off a good shot, you just need to be next to it. For example, from actual gameplay:

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 18 TUNNELS LEAD TO 16, 17, AND 20

I had just come from room 20, so I knew the Wumpus had to be in either 16 or 17. Based on the map, I could just shoot both of them.

SHOOT OR MOVE? S

NUMBER OF ROOMS? 3

ROOM #? 16
ROOM #? 15
ROOM #? 17

Just passing through a room is enough to shoot a Wumpus, so if it is in Room 16 you will be as successful as if it is room 17. With Cave 1 in particular this would work even if you didn’t know about any of the adjacent rooms beforehand, since you can pass your shot through 5 rooms:

That is, if you’re standing at 18 next to the Wumpus, a shot through 16, 15, 17, 19, and 20 will be guaranteed to hit the Wumpus.

Cave 2 (String of Beads): This one’s not a good map to play on, as one of my first attempts will illustrate:

The red indicates pits. The only thing to do here was to fire an arrow along the strip and hope I got lucky. This is a little different than the Minesweeper you-have-to-guess scenario where you start next to a pit — in that case it’s a gamble rather than a guaranteed death. Here, the map itself made for an impossible scenario overall, and one where it took some mapping beforehand to realize that fact. It felt like trying to solve a Sudoku puzzle only to realize part-way through the given numbers were placed wrong.

Cave 3 (Toroidal Hex Net): This one was very satisfying to play on, and had the same level of complexity and interconnectedness that the original dodecahedron map does. I also made a very satisfying 5-room-shot:

I had smelled the Wumpus from room 13, so knew it had to be in either 9 or 17. Moving around the other way, I got stopped at 3 by sensing bats nearby. The bats had to be in either 7 or 8. However, rather than trying another direction or gambling on the bats, I shot an arrow in the path

7 - 2 - 17 - 13 - 9

guaranteeing that I would hit the Wumpus no matter which room it was in.

Cave 4 (Dendrite): Easily the worst map of the set; it’s very common to be blocked off by just a single pit. Do not play.

Cave 5 (One Way Only): This one definitely gets some tangled looking maps if you go freestyle.

I eventually did the brute force method of copying the exact room numbers and exits from the source code. This let me look at a situation like

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 4 TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 7 8

so given the knowledge that

3 goes to 2, 6, 7
4 goes to 3, 7, 8
5 goes to 8, 9, 12
6 goes to 5, 9, 10
7 goes to 6, 10, 11
8 goes to 7, 11, 12

it was possible to make a route that hits all three adjacent rooms with one arrow. (Specifically here, 3-7-6-5-8 works.)

The best strategy seems to be to increase the room number slowly and backtrack when possible. That way you are more likely to have rooms you’ve already been in or at least “scanned” as exits from the new room, so if there’s a pit or bat hazard it’s possible to avoid it by leaving for the “known safe room”. For example, suppose you’re at 6 with no hazards nearby in the adjacent rooms (5, 9, 10). Then you step back to room 5; with adjacent rooms (8, 9, 12) and a pit nearby. Since you didn’t sense a pit when the adjacent rooms were (5, 9, 10), that means 9 is safe and leads to escape.

This led to satisfying loops where “known territory” was revisited in avoiding hazards and gave a small sense of atmosphere.

From best to worst I’d rank the new caves as roughly

Cave 3-Cave 5-Cave 1-Cave 2-Cave 4

with the original Cave 0 tied for first. Really, the main issue with the problem caves was the generation of impossible scenarios; technically speaking there are only two absolute barriers (the pits) so a “good” map just needs to avoid “single chokepoint” situations.

Now that I’m an “expert” I suppose it’s time to up the ante:

From the article accompanying the Wumpus 2 code in Creative Computing.

Wumpus 3 returns to only having a dodecahedron layout. It was not written by Gregory himself but a “Howard” as mentioned in the article clipped above. Also, as implied, the code wasn’t published. Because of this, people have known about it but it has long been considered a “lost game”.

Fortunately, I found it in a special “Games” booklet that PCC put out in 1974.

As of right now you can play Wumpus 3, entirely in your browser.

(I’m still using DOS QBASIC, but after some tech hiccups I managed to compile the code. This has the fortunate side effect of making it easy to put a playable version online. I’ll give a similar treatment to Caves1 soon.)

The gimmicks here are:

1. “Tumareos” that eat your arrows.

2. All of the hazards (wumpus, pits, bats, tumareos) are capable of moving about the caves at random.

A sample of play:

I FEEL A DRAFT!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 13 TUNNELS LEAD TO 16 17 20

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
I FEEL A DRAFT
MY ARROWS ARE QUIVERING
YOU ARE IN ROOM 6
TUNNELS LEAD TO 5 7 15

In this case, I started with *all* the adjacent rooms containing a hazard. I decided the safest bet was to try to shoot an arrow into two of the rooms. The Wumpus moves to a random adjacent room if you miss a shot (meaning you have a 1/3 chance of dying if you’re next to it) but I already had the pit giving me a 1/3 chance of death on the first move, so I figured I’d rather take the 2/3 shot at victory first.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? S
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 4
ROOM #? 15
ROOM #? 16
ROOM #? 17
ROOM #? 7
MISSED

Alas, I missed. But the fact I didn’t get eaten means the Wumpus was in Room #5.

WHAT A FLAP YOU’RE IN . . . IT’S BAT MIGRATION TIME!!

This message means the bats moved. Note that there is no check to if they move to the player’s position, so it’s possible to just be minding your business and have bats swoop in and teleport you somewhere.

I FEEL A DRAFT
MY ARROWS ARE QUIVERING
YOU ARE IN ROOM 6
TUNNELS LEAD TO 5 7 15

Now, the fact I’m not dead means that the Wumpus moved to either 1 and 4, which are the adjacent rooms from 5. Since they are both part of the “central pentagon” I could shoot at both of them.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 5

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 5
TUNNELS LEAD TO 1 4 6

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? s
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 4
ROOM #? 1
ROOM #? 2
ROOM #? 3
ROOM #? 4
AHA! YOU GOT THE WUMPUS!

I gave Wumpus 3 a good number of tries, and I’m sad to say I agree with Gregory on this one: the game is a little too chaotic. The arrow-eaters are just a nuisance (I never had an arrow supply shortage even with them in the game) but the randomly moving obstacles mean you have more opportunities to get trapped in an unwinnable position or even just die arbitrarily when you have a hazard get moved to the room you’re standing in.

There’s a major difference between a set-up gamble that the player has to roll the dice on, and the game essentially telling you now is the time to die and you can’t do anything about it. (Even in the “bad caves” of Wumpus 2 where the player is essentially trapped, you can do some last-ditch arrows and hope you hit the Wumpus.) I can understand why there was no rush to get the game in print.

One more theoretical tangent before I let Wumpus go:

. . . even more importantly, Wumpus is a prototype version of the system of geography that is still with IF today: a set of discrete, self-contained rooms linked together by connectors the player can use to pass from one to another. Compass directions are not yet here, but the rest of the scheme is. Wumpus is all about mapping. The early IF games that would follow were continuing its tradition in being full of those twisty little passages that so frustrate modern players who try to go back to them today.
— Jimmy Maher, writing on Hunt the Wumpus

So Wumpus no longer has the distinction of being the first to put the player inside the Caves. Does it matter?

I guess it depends on what you mean by matter? As I’ve mentioned before, history is not a competition. Looking through every human achievement like there are Points attached can distort the true thread of influence. And besides, considering the Maher quote, the “prototype” idea is still perfectly accurate.

But more nebulously, it still feels like Hunt the Wumpus was the “first” of … something. I’ve played everything available before 1973 (it isn’t as long or as hard as you’d think, I wasn’t kidding when I said this era had “almost no computer games at all”) and there really is a spark of compact design in Wumpus that is unique. Rather than being a simulation of an experience seen elsewhere (a basketball game, the 19th century Oregon Trail, an episode of Star Trek) the possibility of computer games as a doorway into new worlds opened up in a way *orthogonal* to pre-existing media.

Posted April 5, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Before Adventure, Part 4: Hunt the Wumpus (1973)   9 comments

From PCC Nov. 1973.

I. The Frozen Man

Soon before he died, the author of Hunt the Wumpus adopted the name Gregory H. Coresun. His name before that was Hara Ra, one he took after becoming a shaman.

I perhaps should put “died” in quotes because his head is now cryogenically frozen at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale.

He had some stories. For our story, we return to 1973, where he was Gregory Yob. To offer some continuity to his possible immortal self 1000 years from now when he reads this, I’ll call him Gregory.

II. The Game Itself

WELCOME TO ‘HUNT THE WUMPUS’

THE WUMPUS LIVES IN A CAVE OF 20 ROOMS.
EACH ROOM HAS 3 TUNNELS LEADING TO OTHER ROOMS.

Thus starts Gregory’s parvum opus. The 20 rooms are arranged in a “squashed dodecahedron” shape.

You have 6 arrows, and your goal is to hit the Wumpus with an arrow. In addition to the Wumpus itself being hazardous (it eats you if it is in the same room as you) there are bats which can randomly drop you in a new room and bottomless pits that can drop you to death.

If you are in a room adjacent to bats, you will get the message “BATS NEARBY!” Next to a bottomless pit, the game will say “I FEEL A DRAFT”. Next to the Wumpus, “I SMELL A WUMPUS.”

I FEEL A DRAFT
BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 1
TUNNELS LEAD TO 2 5 8

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 2
YYYIIIIEEEE . . . FELL IN PIT
HA HA HA – YOU LOSE!

As the game above illustrates, it’s sometimes possible to just get bad luck on a game setup and have to guess, just like in Minesweeper.

III. Strategy

Minesweeper is a good comparison; this is, in a way, a game of Minesweeper at the ground level. If you play carefully (and don’t get unlucky) it’s possible to chart via deduction where hazards are without stepping into them, and shooting the Wumpus without missing.

In practice, I tried more gambles than I needed to, just because it made the game flow better and was more fun. A sample game:

YOU ARE IN ROOM 4
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 5 14

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 14

I FEEL A DRAFT
YOU ARE IN ROOM 14
TUNNELS LEAD TO 4 13 15

I could actually be careful here, but since it was just the start of the game, I decided for a 50-50 gamble and went to room 15. Fortunately, the pit was in room 13 instead.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 15

BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 15
TUNNELS LEAD TO 6 14 16

I know bats are in either rooms 6 or 16, but not which. Instead of taking another gamble, I went back to the start (room 4) to try a different direction.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 14

I FEEL A DRAFT
YOU ARE IN ROOM 14
TUNNELS LEAD TO 4 13 15

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 4

YOU ARE IN ROOM 4
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 5 14

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 5

BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 5
TUNNELS LEAD TO 1 4 6

Because I knew bats were in either room 6 or 16, and I sensed bats again while being adjacent to room 6, I decided to guess that 6 had the bats and 1 was safe. It could be that both rooms 16 and 1 had bats, so this was still a gamble, but a small one.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 1

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 1
TUNNELS LEAD TO 2 5 8

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 5

BATS NEARBY!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 5
TUNNELS LEAD TO 1 4 6

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 4

YOU ARE IN ROOM 4
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 5 14

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 3

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
YOU ARE IN ROOM 3
TUNNELS LEAD TO 2 4 12

There is only one Wumpus, so this last sequence was definitive: I smelled a Wumpus in either rooms 2 or 8, and in either rooms 12 or 2. This meant the Wumpus had to be in room 2.

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? S
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 1
ROOM #? 2
AHA! YOU GOT THE WUMPUS!
HEE HEE HEE – THE WUMPUS’LL GETCHA NEXT TIME!!

Part of the reason I was gambling when I didn’t have to is that bad luck isn’t just confined to the starting room; because the pits and bats serve as “blockers” of sorts on the map, it’s possible to land in a scenario later in the game where guessing is needed.

On the map above I had gotten to room 12 where I had both the “smell” and the “draft”. Every other route to those rooms was blocked, so I had to take a gamble. Fortunately, the arrows of the game can pass through multiple rooms, so I had a little bit of safety: I could take a step back to room 13, then try shooting an arrow all the way into 3 or 11 (passing through 12). If the arrow missed, the Wumpus would wake up, but at least I’d have another chance at killing him.

YOU ARE IN ROOM 13
TUNNELS LEAD TO 12 14 20

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 12

I SMELL A WUMPUS!
I FEEL A DRAFT
YOU ARE IN ROOM 12
TUNNELS LEAD TO 3 11 13

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? M
WHERE TO? 13

YOU ARE IN ROOM 13
TUNNELS LEAD TO 12 14 20

SHOOT OR MOVE (S-M)? S
NO. OF ROOMS(1-5)? 2
ROOM #? 12
ROOM #? 3
AHA! YOU GOT THE WUMPUS!
HEE HEE HEE – THE WUMPUS’LL GETCHA NEXT TIME!!
SAME SET-UP (Y-N)? N
HUNT THE WUMPUS

IV. A Chain of Creativity

Last time, writing about Caves, I showed a list with a progression from Caves1 to Wumpus. The next issue of PCC was even more explicit:

PCC Sep. 1973.

According to Gregory himself, writing two years later in Creative Computing, the chains ran a little differently:

Two years ago I happened by People’s Computer Company (PCC) and saw some of their computer games — such as Hurkle, Snark, and Mugwump. My reaction was: “EECH!!” Each of these games was based set on a 10 x 10 grid in Cartesian coordinates and three of them was too much for me. I started to think along the line of: “There has to be a hide and seek computer game without that (exp. deleted) grid!!”” In fact, why not a topological computer game — Imagine a set of points connected in some way and the player moves about the set via the interconnections.

To summarize:

A. We started with an educational game (Hide and Seek) created in a classroom, using a Cartesian grid and the thin narrative of a hide-and-seek game.

B. The game directly caused the creation of a trio (Mugwump, Hurkle, Snark) involving the same grid, but only looking for a single point, and changing the narrative to “hunting” some sort of creature.

C. Alongside this came a game (Caves) based on the computer science construct of trees; it may have had some sideways educational motivation, but by putting the perspective “inside the data structure” the game turned into one of exploration that started to resemble the modern adventure game.

Hunt the Wumpus combines (B.) and (C.) and adds a fair number of innovations besides — arrows to take down the Wumpus, hazards, and the possibility the Wumpus wakes up.

Every current history of Wumpus only mentions the influence of the grid games, since Gregory didn’t write anything about Caves. I am not certain why the Creative Computing article left it out, but due to the survival of Gregory’s article surviving and the early PCC newspapers not being reprinted, Caves left the public consciousness almost entirely. (As far as I’ve been able to find, I’m the first to write about it since the 1970s.)

The same Creative Computing article includes a transcript with maps that look a lot like the “tree branching” of Caves.

Theory #1: Gregory was trying to write a condensed story, and he felt his particular insight and contribution had more to do with transferring the hide-and-seek setup to topologically constructed caves rather than the caves as a concept in theemselves.

Theory #2: Gregory was trying to take credit that was undeserved, that he was the inventor of “probably the first game to take place on a map consisting of rooms connected by passages.” (Quote by Magnus Olsson from a port of Wumpus.)

I’m fairly torn. Given he was only writing 2 years after the fact, it’d be hard to know just how historically important the game was, or what people would focus on (reading the article, it’s almost like he considers the dodecahedron the most interesting thing). It would also have been impossible to know just how thoroughly Caves would be wiped from the record. On the other hand, the text really gives the impression Gregory came up with the topologically-connected cave idea on his own. Substantiating this, Gregory wrote this in 2005, again leaving out any mention of Caves:

71 was a long time ago. Teletypes were the main interactive terminal, lucky people had “glass teletypes” which could hold 80 columns by 40 lines of text. games? nothing much – blackjack. or PCC’s litle edugames like mugwump and hurkle which were very simpleminded.

About the time I wrote Wumpus, a version of StarTrek came along, it wasn’t bad. Versions of aventure for CP/M personal computers came along 5 years later. You know, like using a pencil in pre calculator days, duh.

Star Trek came out in 1971; given that Mugwump and Hurkle weren’t even written until 1973 — and based on a game from 1972 — the chronology here is a bit off, which isn’t unusual regarding interviews with people about old mainframe games. Still, the “trying to tweak one’s historical legacy” warning flag is waving a bit.

If we take things all the way after his death (“death”?) his partner Andrea van de Loo wrote

He was the creator of the very first computer game, Hunt the Wumpus.

which sounds like the sort of exaggeration that came from Gregory himself. (Again, to be fair, most discussions of the early-70s computing era have a large number of inaccuracies — I’ve seen Hunt the Wumpus attributed to every year from 1971 to 1975 inclusive — so it’s possible she picked up this idea from somewhere else.)

Despite all that, I’m going to stick with Theory #1 for the moment; there just wasn’t enough motivation in 1975 to be revisionist about the connection with Caves, and with the other cases of this sort I can think of, there’s enough historical time gap it’s clear some fame was at stake (see, for example, Daniel Lawrence claiming he wrote DND “first” with no prior influence).

Even if there was a bit of historical omission involved, there is no denying Hunt the Wumpus became the most influential game out of PCC. It showed up not only in derivative versions (like Treasure Hunt) but in adventure games like Zork (referencing the superbats in the 1980 edition), Adventure 501 (where the Wumpus is an actual enemy you must run away from), and Hunter, In Darkness (an Andrew Plotkin game from 1999 which could be considered a remake).

The Wumpus is also now the mascot of Discord, the “modern voice & text chat app” designed for gamers.

Wumpus had two direct sequels (the first by Gregory himself, the second probably by Howie Franklin) which I’ll get to next time, and then I’ve got one more surprise to go before the Before Adventure series concludes.

Posted April 3, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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