Archive for the ‘irvin-kaputz’ Tag

Irvin Kaputz (1981?)   8 comments

One of my lingering questions for the project has been what to do with games that lack both an author’s name and year of release. Where should they be placed in sequence? Without a biography or definite historical context to peg to, it’d be easy for these games to fall through historical memory.

But: we’re doing all the adventure games here, even though I was tempted to let this one slip away (for reasons you’ll see shortly).

I tagged this game as “1981” for a few reasons:

  • This was from a TRS-80 Model I disk. Tandy replaced the Model I with the Model III by 1980 and the number of Model I-specific games started to decline.
  • In archaeology, when an artifact can’t be dated based on its own properties, it helps to look at the layer it came from and if anything nearby can be used as a date instead. At Ira Goldklang’s site where this was first archived, the disk collection it was in had one program each from 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982.
  • It’s a treasure hunt with *asterisks around the names of treasures* (13, in this case, hidden by the “thief-eccentric” Irvin Kaputz). We’ve only had 3 and a half treasure hunt style adventures in 1981 (Inca Curse, Miser, Chambers of Xenobia, and I’m counting Hezarin as half) which puts the percent roughly at 20%; this means in 1981 the style is still around but starting to fade out as a plot device (compared to around 40% of games the year before, and more than 60% the year before that). If we’re playing the odds, 1981 might even be an overestimate.
  • The title screen has the “I am your puppet” phrase which started to be less common after 1981.

Still, I want to emphasize this is a straight guess, and there’s nothing preventing the game from being from 1987 or some such.

The parser of Irvin Kaputz is bizarre to the extent I was unclear if I was seeing bugs or “intended” messages. For example, UNLOCK DOOR at the screen above leads to


The game was thinking UNLIGHT and only looking at the first three letters of the word. But then, I tried OPEN DOOR


which led me to suspect the verbs were mismatched and not going to the right actions. After a bizarre scene with a robe…

…and the fact that the HELP command mentioned on the title screen from the top of this post doesn’t even exist, I decided this was one of those adventures where studying the source code was going to be part of the challenge.

Before I get to the source code, let me lay out what I’ve managed to reach:

Out in the open at the start there’s a *GOLDEN CALF* and *JEWELED FRUIT*. The northwest corner of the map has a golf course where a *RUBY* hides within the 18th hole, and in the sea next to a boat there is a *GOLDEN ANCHOR*. I haven’t been able to get out of the sea once I’ve gotten in.

The boat itself has some MATCHES which I can use to light a RUSTY OLD LAMP, but I haven’t been able to get into any dark places and the lamp has otherwise not been useful.

Other than the LOCKED DOOR at the start I haven’t been able to get in, there’s also a CLOSED GATE (ditto) and a DRAWBRIDGE with PORTCULLIS (same).

I’ve put the source code here. If you want to test it out, you can go to the Willus site I use and pick a random BASIC program (like this one, Election Simulator 1980), cut and paste the source code, then hit “Emulate edited program”.

A few observations I came up with based on the source:

  • I originally thought the game only understood GO NORTH and so forth fully spelled out, but the abbreviations N, S, E, W, U, and D are in; they need to be typed with a period after them. I’ve never seen this before in any adventure game, and is distinct enough if I ever see it again I will suspect the game is somehow linked to Irvin Kaputz.
  • There’s a message about LEAVE YOUR TREASURES HERE AS YOU FIND THEM that I haven’t come across in the game proper; I suspect I haven’t been to the right room yet. The game’s SCORE command says I have so far recovered 0 treasures.
  • The game has weirdly detailed rules for burning things that aren’t the lantern. You can burn the robe (you die because YOU BURN WITH IT), the flag at the 18th hole of the golf course, and a parchment which I haven’t found yet.
  • The I SEE NOTHING VERY SPECIAL message is coming from the game defaulting to an item’s EXAMINE description if an action isn’t done. That still doesn’t mean the actions aren’t broken, but this might be quirky game design rather than a bug.

What I haven’t been able to do as of yet is make progress. This is partly my tentative desire to not completely spoil the game — I haven’t line by line tried to see what verb might apply to the gate, for instance — and partially because I was frankly hoping/expecting to find a simple bug due to a character corruption (or something similar) that doesn’t seem to be there.

I’m also willing to call this one “done”; I’ve squeezed out some interesting information regarding the movement and detailed arson abilities, but I don’t know if Irvin Kaputz has anything else left to give.

Posted April 15, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Irvin Kaputz: More Like Icarus Kaputz   8 comments

One of my favorite unfinished works of art is the American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Agreement with Great Britain (1783-1784).

The artist, Benjamin West, did not die suddenly or get a creative block; the British representatives refused to pose for the picture.

This is a little bit what Irvin Kaputz is like. We have an adventure game left incomplete, but frozen in time at a particular moment and for — what might seem now, at least — a very unusual reason.

I did “solve” one puzzle since last time by poking through the source. By dropping the flag from the 18th hole of the golf course at the top of a pyramid, a crack in the pyramid opens up; you can use a lantern to go in and find a maze.

The maze hides a parchment (“IT’S ONE OF THE STOLEN TREASURES”), and a CLOSED STONE TOMB.

Past this point, everything is clearly broken. Brian Decker did some source-diving after my last post and found that fully 30 of the verbs don’t even work and just funnel down to EXAMINE. The HELP as mentioned in the instructions isn’t even recognized. While all the rooms “exist”, it is impossible to reach the entire map.

This is probably an example of a “private” game (like some of Roger Wilcox’s work), one not originally meant to escape in the wild. The incomplete nature is non-obvious at first appearances; bugs appear early, but serious bugs even in published work were not unusual for the time.

The author clearly had some ambitious notions about world modeling. In nearly every other game of the period, having MATCHES would mean they would LIGHT LAMP (as they do in this game) but they would apply nowhere else; here, you can not only burn items like a FLAG but they change form afterward into a BURNT FLAG. The water (with the GOLDEN ANCHOR I was never able to get) also affects objects, as the MATCHES turn SOGGY and the PARCHMENT becomes a SOGGY OLD RAG.

Unfortunately, the author ran straight into the dread TRS-80 16K size limit. If you’d like to experiment, go back to the source code from my last post, go to any of the PRINT statements, and add one (1) character. Then try running the code at Willus. The game crashes and refuses to load. Delete a character in any print statement (even a different one) and the game loads again. (The file itself is 13K, but given the “exactly one character” circumstance, they were formatting their disk in the same manner as on Willus.)

When critiquing old games it can be easy to forget the technical limits the people at the time were straining against. For example, I’ve gotten fussy with games that only accept TAKE but not GET as a verb (or vice versa). For taking objects, Irvin Kaputz understands TAKE, PICK UP, GET, GRAB, and REMOVE; it accepts LOOK, EXAMINE and DESCRIBE for looking at objects; and it ran out of space before it could add more. The programmers of many of the games we see from the era likely hit the same limit, but were humble and cut back.

This painting by Joseph Lange of Mozart is not unfinished in the traditional sense. The center rectangle is a finished miniature, and then someone later (probably but not necessarily the original artist) cut-and-paste onto a larger canvas with the intent of expanding it. The kludge is more obvious from a pre-restoration photo. More about this is at Michael Lorenz’s blog.

Posted April 16, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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