Archive for the ‘lost-ship’ Tag

Lost Ship Adventure (1980)   7 comments

From 80 Microcomputing, December 1980.

Charles Forsythe joins the ranks of Greg Hassett, Joel Mick, and the authors of Stuga as a teenager publishing software (15 at the time of this game). After playing the Scott Adams games, his biography mentions that:

He was excited about adventure, but like all youngsters, was unable to buy the programs he needed to satisfy his new interest. So he began writing them.

This sounds familiar. When I was very young if I wanted a new adventure I had to write it. The first adventure game I remember playing was a type-in from a library book.

I’ve been relatively glib whenever we’ve hit a treasure hunt (gather all the treasures, put them in central location X) but I decided to chart all the games I’ve played so far for All the Adventures to track the evolution of plot styles:

“Rescue” has a primary motivator of someone or something being extracted, “Investigation” is about figuring things out and putting pieces together, “Escape” is motivated by getting the player out of danger, and “Enemy” is a plot about an opposing force that must be defeated.

These categories are quite rough and some games I just had to make a ballpark decision, but you can at least get a fair idea of how well-copied the treasure hunt concept from Crowther and Woods Adventure was in this era. In 1978 it made up essentially every game, but by 1980 (assuming the ratio continues when I play the rest of the year) only about half of the adventure games were treasure hunts.

WHILE DIVING FOR TREASURE IN THE CARRIBEAN, YOU COME ACROSS A LONG LOST PIRATE SHIP, ADRIFT FOR YEARS.

For this game, the idea of lost ship salvage is one of the most appropriate uses of a treasure hunt, since it matches the experience of real-life salvage (if not the lawyer fees).

Noteworthy: the steak is rotten so does *not* work on the dog, who has apparently been resourceful enough to live alone on an abandoned ship for several years.

This game opens badly, with a serious parser issue:

>CUT CORAL
DON’T BE SO DESTRUCTIVE!
>BREAK CORAL
WITH WHAT, I.E. “WITH FEATHER”
>WITH DAGGER
YOU’VE UNCOVERED SOMETHING

I’ve got enough grizzled experience I can neatly plow through this kind of problem (“hmm, I better test a couple verbs, even though the first one implies not to do the action, because that’s a default message”) but I can see someone booting up the game and stopping right there.

Besides the section above I haven’t been able to make much early progress. I have access to

  • The main deck as shown above, where I can’t reach the black flag. I can attempt to SET SAIL but the game says I haven’t set a course.
  • The crow’s nest, where there are some gull eggs (and I get knocked into the sea if I try to get them).
  • The map room of the ship, where SET COURSE is recognized but the game says I have nothing to mark the map with. (Trying to STAB MAP to be all pirate-style just gets the “DON’T BE SO DESTRUCTIVE!” message.)
  • A nearby beach where a sign says I can STORE treasures there. I have stored 0 treasures so far.
  • A cargo hold with a rusty machine, some decaying bags, a working fishing net (although no fish around) and a bag of gold. I tried to take the bag of gold to the beach to STORE it but the game says I don’t know what’s inside (??). I suspect a genuine bug at work.

Despite the early stuckness, I’ve got some goodwill left because I like the environment. The main character wears a diving suit and can walk around underwater. The abandoned ship feels mysterious but not mystical (yet), and while I don’t think the layout is “authentic” the author also didn’t feel obliged to pack in an unrealistic amount of space. I can read a simple description like

THE WINDOWS LOOK OUT ONTO AN ENDLESS OCEAN. THE SEA BREEZE COMES THROUGH THEM.

and take a few breaths of another world; sometimes, that’s all I’m needing out of an adventure game.

Posted July 22, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Lost Ship Adventure: Finished   7 comments

Last time, I was stuck not being able to mark a map. While I knew the EXAMINE command worked, for some reason I had neglected to EXAMINE FEATHER which yielded “it’s a pen!” and the object changed.

Once I had the pen, I was able to >MARK MAP; then I could >SET SAIL to an island visible from the Crow’s Nest. (It’s unclear why you *had* to mark the map in order to move the ship.)

Upon arriving, a manatee climbed on board. I went down to the water and — using the fishing net from the cargo hold — I was able to catch some fish. I gave the fish to the manatee, who dropped a gold key.

Walking to the island, I found a jungle maze (GO NORTH, GO EAST, GO NORTH gets you through if you’re playing). Past the jungle was a cave with a dead pirate and a chest. The chest opened with the gold key and I found some gems.

I carted the gold key, chest of gems, and the two treasures from last time (jeweled dagger and bag of gold) back to the original beach. I was then able to STORE each one in turn (I don’t know why it worked now but not before, I’m guessing it was just a bug).

There was no announcement I was done finding treasures. SCORE just gives the number. I just had to guess I was done, at which point I found out upon QUITting that I found all four of them.

A promising start was essentially utterly wasted. It’s been a while since I’ve been outright disappointed in a game.

I realize this is maybe just in contrast with the extreme difficulty of Deathmaze 5000, but I even found Nellan is Thirsty to be a better experience than Lost Ship Adventure, and that one was written explicitly for children. This was marketed like a regular game!

In a theoretical sense, the most interesting part was how long I was stuck. I devoted quite a lot of time to re-copying the opening map, checking verbs, pondering the item list, etc. I had simply missed to >EXAMINE FEATHER when I had examined nearly everything else. I’m not sure the feather was even intended as a “puzzle”; perhaps it intended more as a piece of theatricality.

This is an experience that can happen even in “good” games, where you miss clicking on one particular door or miss an item interaction for no particular reason and get stuck for hours on useless actions. On a moderate-to-difficult game, it can make later puzzles simpler (having objects and their interactions memorized) but in this case after finding the pen I wrapped the entire thing up in less than 10 minutes.

Those reading this: do you have any stories of a similar experience?

POSTSCRIPT: I realized a day after posting this there was an aspect to the game I hadn’t seen before. Note how while the room description pops up all at once, the objects “scroll in” on the display.

shipscroll

The scrolling text effect can happen on old machines and especially when playing a game on a printer (like Zork on a mainframe sometimes was done) but this is the first time I’ve seen an adventure with the delay intentionally added.

I normally associate this effect now with visual novels, but it’s interesting the author went through the not-insignificant effort of putting it here.

Posted July 24, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with