Archive for the ‘reality-ends’ Tag

Reality Ends (1980)   4 comments

For the first time, I don’t have a name of an author. Reality Ends is an even-more-obscure-than-usual title from Med Systems Software, most famous for Asylum from 1981. This particular game isn’t listed on Mobygames, Wikipedia, or The Interactive Fiction Database. It’s only indexed on the Casa Solution Archive because the crew over there is even more obsessive than I am.

Given how many of these companies started as one or two person operations, the author could be Frank Corr, Jr. of Deathmaze 5000 from the same year, but since I haven’t played that game yet, I’ll shelve my suspicions for now.

My first encounter with Reality Ends was the clip above, via the Med Systems Spring 1981 Catalog. The “over 200 parallel universes” bit definitely had me puzzled until I opened the game itself.

The room description fills the top of the screen, your inventory is in the lower left, and the lower right has a map. The actual grid is 12 by 18, so there are 216 “parallel universes”, one for each “room” in the game.

Back when I was writing about Haunt I referenced adventure games that play roughly on a grid. There was an underwater section on a giant cube that I got out graph paper for. This time I went a step farther and went full spreadsheet.

Making a spreadsheet to play a game crosses a threshold of some sort, but I’m not sure what from or what to.

You’ll notice a lot of blank space; this is a compact way for the game to claim more than 200 locations when only some of them are implemented. Fortunately, navigation is less irritating than you’d think because there are no NORTH / SOUTH / EAST / WEST commands, you navigate by just pressing arrow keys.

Besides the map, I haven’t made much progress other than a few early pick-offs. I got food and did >FEED DOG to get a loyal companion, I went to >HIRE MARKSMEN and managed to >USE GOLD to get them to follow me around, and I used an umbrella to fend off some acid rain and pick up some diamonds. Technically speaking, the game doesn’t seem like it has to be a long one (excluding rooms with just objects out in the open, there are only twelve of significance) but we’ll see what kind of new frustrations this can conjure up.

Like this one. Ow!

Posted February 26, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Reality Ends: Text Landscape Generator   Leave a comment

I’m still prodding without much luck at the main game, so I’d rather make a bit more progress before I report on that. However, I worked out how the room descriptions were generated, and I thought it was worth recording for posterity.

The game is entirely on a grid 12 rows high and 18 columns across. You start in the lower left corner and the endgame (the Citadel of Baldir) is 1 room down from the upper right corner. Starting from the beginning and going east, the room descriptions look like this:

YOU ARE IN A FOREST. IT IS MOUNTAINOUS AND VERY COLD. THE AIR IS CRYSTAL CLEAR. PERPETUAL TWILIGHT PREVAILS.

YOU ARE IN A FOREST. IT IS MOUNTAINOUS AND WARM. THE FOG IS VERY THICK. PERPETUAL TWILIGHT PREVAILS.

YOU ARE IN A FOREST. IT IS HILLY HERE AND VERY COLD. THE AIR IS CRYSTAL CLEAR. PERPETUAL TWILIGHT PREVAILS.

YOU ARE IN A FOREST. IT IS HILLY HERE AND WARM. THE FOG IS VERY THICK. PERPETUAL TWILIGHT PREVAILS.

There are some repeating patterns here: the description is really five parts, filled in Mad Libs-style:

YOU ARE {A}. IT IS {B} HERE AND {C}. THE {D}. {E}.

They aren’t filled in at random; it’s based mathematically on where you are in the grid, in a way easy for the computer to calculate.

Position {A}

The grid has a “forest zone”, “grasslands zone”, and “dead place zone” each taking up a third of the map.

Left: YOU ARE IN A FOREST. Middle: YOU ARE ON GRASSLANDS. Right: YOU ARE IN A DEAD PLACE.

This makes a fair amount of sense, giving the impression as one approaches the Citadel of Baldir (the place of dooooooom and all that) the landscape gets steadily worse.

Position {B}

This time the grid is divided into strips two columns wide each, and there is a repeat every six columns.

The blue areas: IT IS MOUNTAINOUS. The pink areas:
IT IS HILLY HERE. The yellow areas: THE LAND IS FLAT.

Perhaps this is meant to suggest some sort of rippling earthquake that originated at the far east of each biome.

Position {C}

The “AND ” that comes after the “level of hilliness” part of the description is a repeat every two columns.

Dark blue: AND VERY COLD. Light yellow: AND WARM. Dark red: AND QUITE HOT.

Even though this one was a regular pattern, during gameplay it was the one I felt most was switching at random due to the asymmetry in placement.

Position {D}

The descriptions of biome, hilliness, and temperature are followed here by air thickness. The pattern repeats every two columns.

Light blue: THE AIR IS CRYSTAL CLEAR. Grey: THE RAIN IS FALLING STEADILY. Black: THE FOG IS VERY THICK. Green: THE WIND IS BLOWING.

Position {E}

This position reflects whether the sun can be seen or not, and is a simple alternating pattern by rows.

Grey: PERPETUAL TWILIGHT PREVAILS. Orange: THE SUN CAN BE SEEN FAINTLY.

Thoughts

The setup here feels related to procedural generation, the algorithmic generation of content. I suppose, technically, it is? — but usually, procedural generation is done in a way that simulates naturalness and hides pattern, and here the intent is to create pattern, and at least some of the patterns are done to provide a logic to the story (progressing from Forest to Dead Place, flickering between visible sun and darkness). You could say this is standard procedural generation, but without the usual addition of a random element to twist things out of place.

Theoretically, really quite something for 1980! In practice … well, the landscape description is unimportant to gameplay, so I fairly quickly started to ignore all the description text. Still, I would call it a worthwhile experiment.

For Further Reading

James Ryan recently posted his dissertation Curating Simulated Storyworlds dealing with the generative world problem in regards to narrative. It’s nearly 800 pages long, but if you’re short on time, jump to Chapter 13 (the Conclusion) which gives a good idea of what both game designers and theoreticians are dealing with.

Posted February 27, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Reality Ends: The City Falls   5 comments

I thought for a while I definitely would have to bail on this one, but I had a lightning soaked victory in the end.

A somewhat relevant public domain picture for spoiler space.

I had two sticking points:

(a.) something close to guess-the-verb, although it was more like guess-the-chain-of-events
and
(b.) me reading a word incorrectly.

Let’s start with the more inglorious (b.)

Early on I found a “deep ravine” in a room with “mail”. The game suggested you need to jump over the ravine to get to the mail, but doing so led to falling and death. Fortunately, I quickly realized a horse elsewhere in the map was useful here, and after I did RIDE HORSE I was able to jump the ravine and retrieve the mail. And then … nothing. I tried >READ MAIL. I tried >OPEN MAIL. I tried >DEILVER MAIL. I tried all sorts of strange things, but the purpose of the mail eluded me most of the game.

Later in the game, I was trying to work out how to fight a “fanatic leader”. I had a sword but trying to do battle led to “NICE SWORDSMANSHIP, BUT YOU CAUGHT A CHEST WOUND” and death.

Much later in the game … well, perhaps you’ve already put these parts together, but it dawned on me that “mail” was NOT the kind of mail you open and read and find coupons in. No, this was mail as in armor that you wear. After WEAR MAIL:

To be fair, this is a good reason why it helps to be able to examine your objects! But I was still just a little sheepish.

So, for (a.):

Trying to get the plants just led to sinking in quicksand.

I had some rope that I had tried to use in many ways, including attaching to other things and the like, until I finally hit upon THROW ROPE:

THE GRAPPLE END HAS ATTACHED TO A LARGE SHRUB.

The next appropriate command is PULL ROPE

YOU ARE NO LONGER SINKING AND THE PLANTS ARE IN REACH

whereupon then you can finally GET PLANTS.

After getting the plants, I went back to a tavern where I previously came across a fatal brew.

This time I did EAT PLANTS beforehand

TASTES BITTER, BUT AT LEAST IT DID NOT KILL ME.

and I was able to safely drink the brew.

YOU GET HEARTBURN BUT DO NOT DIE. THE KEEPER IS IN FEAR FOR HIS MISERABLE LIFE.

I ignored the suggestion for revenge and just took the empty stein. All that process was to be able to go to a place that had acid rain and FILL STEIN. Then I could take the acid to a locked box and POUR ACID breaking it open, revealing some silver.

Back in the acid rain place I also got some diamonds, and was able to go to Israel to trade them for guns. No, really:

Remember, the conceit here is you are not traveling through “rooms”, but “parallel universes”, including, apparently, an Israeli gun market circa 1980.

My next task was going to the “City of Margon” which had an “Amulet of Sangi” and fight Margon to be able to get the Amulet. It turns out if you hire marksman and give them guns you can try to put up a fight … and he kills you because “GUNPOWDER DOESN’T WORK IN THIS UNIVERSE”.

???!?

The solution turns out to be: after you buy the guns in Israel, you can USE POLISH to have them make gunpowder out of some jeweler’s polish you find in a different universe. It turns out Margon will *still* kill you unless the bullets are also silver, so you can USE SILVER (the silver from the locked box) and the gun shop will helpfully turn those into silver bullets for you.

Finally, being prepared with an army of marksmen using silver bullets, you can go back to the city and KILL MARGON:

Let’s skip ahead a bit: once you get the Amulet of Sangi, you just need the fanatics (that I mentioned earlier), a staff (which happens to be sitting on the ground next to the endgame room) and a magic word CIMAL (which you can get by stealing a book of lore from a minotaur). Then it’s just a matter of going to the CITADEL OF BALDIR which threatens the DISSOLUTION OF REALITY and letting fury reign:

So, that was a curious introduction to the library of Med Systems, to say the least. They’re going to appear twice more in 1980 with first-person 3D perspective adventure games Labyrinth and Deathmaze 5000.

Yes, 3D first-person perspective in 1980. If you’re dying with anticipation, the Adventure Gamer covered Deathmaze 5000 in their “missed classic” series so you can see some glorious screenshots.

Posted February 28, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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