Archive for the ‘time-zone’ Tag

Time Zone: Pilots of the Stone Age   6 comments

I didn’t get any more progress going in 400 million BC, so I decided to move on and try some other ages. In addition to it being needless to slam my head on a brick wall of being stuck (with a T-rex and a pterodactyl) when there were roughly a billion rooms in other ages to map, I wasn’t completely 100% sure nothing could be taken back in time; I thought it possible there was some exceptions if an item was very old and not-manufactured, and I turned out to be right — there was one item in 10,000 BC, the Stone Age, that I was able to take back: a rock.

The rock is near here, just north of where the time machine lands.

The rock was no use at all in the past. (At least by all my experimentation so far.) However, I did make progress in the stone age (and used the rock), to enough of an extent I believe I made it to “the end” of that particular area.

Before I really get into that, here is my list of verbs present on disk side B.

Orange indicates recognized verbs, and according to the manual, this list is unique for the disk side I was on, and I should expect entirely different verb-sets elsewhere.

Remember, the manual specifies exactly what zones are on each disk. In this case, we can reach 400 Million Years BC, 10,000 BC, and 2082 BC (Europe, specifically London) without changing the disk.

I found the Stone Age to be a relatively pleasant mix of plain scenery rooms

and actual incident.

This was easy to solve, since I knew CLIMB was on the verb list.

The sharpened stick from dino-era was useful against a saber-tooth tiger; the tiger ran away with the stick in its body, so that used up the item. This makes me of course paranoid there is some sort of softlock where the spear is also useful in a futuristic city, and you have to use it in the future first, but I can’t fret about that now.

Past the tiger there was a hare I was able to KILL by using the rock. I could then take the hare into a cave and offer it for friendship.

Then, using two sticks from elsewhere, I was able to MAKE FIRE (both MAKE and CREATE were on the verb-list so this one was also not hard to sniff out) and they let me have their stone hammer in exchange.

An object! And probably the whole point of going to 10,000 BC, which honestly sounds a little funny narratively. On a whim I decided to try the other location on the same disk, 2082 in Europe.

Not nearly as much progress here, but not much to do progress on. I have heard this game has a lot of empty space, and here it really shows that off.

The map locations aren’t unpleasant-looking, exactly — at least the places fare better than the people —

but the mapping was more like sketching out one of those old-school Might and Magic mazes, except with almost no encounters. London only had two in particular.

First, as shown above, is a police station. The note talks about dogs free for a good home. You can take one, but the dog runs away upon leaving, so you only have a rope in your inventory.

Second, is a thief that (after one turn) takes your stuff.

And…that’s it. There are some cars in locations, but you can’t go in them or refer to them in any way. I think it remotely possible the only reason to visit London 2082 is to get some rope. Of course, I may be missing a hatpin that lets me fend off the thief from the Victorian Era or some such craziness so I don’t really know. I was really expecting to be able to FLY some sort of vehicle, given the word’s presence on the verb list, but perhaps that mean to be used somehow stuck way back in the pterodactyl nest. No flying in the stone age, alas.

I think my next best bet is to approach the game in a wide sense, just visiting each age/location in turn, making a map, and finding out what presumably small interesting pieces there are. Then I can line up all the obstacles I’m stuck on in a more organized way so I can pop back and forth with a little more efficiency. Otherwise, who knows where the stone hammer I got from 10,000 BC goes? I did try one more era, that of 50 BC in Europe, which turns out to be — predictably — Rome. As prophesized, the map is mostly dead air, but here’s a few screenshots.

I’m willing to appreciate the gonzo bit here.

The important parts are near the “arena”. You can find some prisoners that look miserable

a pit that has a dark labyrinth (if you wander you eventually die)

and in one location you get summarily tossed into a lion’s pit for just walking around.

Some serious trudging to come. Expect that “Hours Played” to go up a bit next time? Although mapping nothing is faster than you might think.

HOURS PLAYED: 1.5

Posted January 18, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Time Zone: 400MILBC   3 comments

On June 17, 2020, an important milestone in the history of Time Zone was achieved:

So the game is beatable given I have 38 years of time to work on it.

Given how gnarly it is supposed to be, I figured it wise to spend time with the manual first, in case there were any deft hints or fun facts. Here’s the first one (well, middle one, but I’m not doing them in page-order):

On our adventure we need to visit a variety of time areas (using the time machine from the screenshot earlier that appeared next to our house in 1982) in order to collect a variety of items to defeat Evil-Bad-Guy Ramadu in 4081 AD. The game helpfully lists not only what the time zones are but on what disks they appear in. (Wildly, in a meta-sense, this is so if one of your disks goes bad and you need to send for a new one, you can keep playing the game by exploring other zones. This is an open world game where the physical media you are exploring on at a given moment is important, which sounds like it should be an element of some bizarre art installation.)

Based on another manual hint…

…I knew that the timezones were essentially going to be “in order”. Perhaps some hopping around continents once reaching a particular time “level”, but since no items can go back farther, the only possibility for reverse-hopping would be from seeing, say, a secret area in a later time period that is buried in an earlier one, but can be unburied if you know where to dig. So the order should be

400,000,000 BC
10,000 BC
50 BC
1000 AD
1400 AD
1700 AD
2082 AD
4082 AD

where the two earliest periods and the last period only have one “location” to go to.

The “knowledge of technology” hint suggests to me we’re going to make gunpowder somewhere, because it’s always gunpowder.

Nothing too serious here, except the glaring emphasis on food suggests we’ll being doing that kind of puzzle more than once.

The second paragraph is quite notable. In the interview I linked in my last post Roberta Williams suggests the game being used in schools to teach history, but this paragraph definitely suggests something different, more of a Mystery-Science-Theater-3000-style romp (“If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes / And other science facts / Then repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, / I should really just relax.'”)

Now, even if you haven’t read my occasional random drops like the time I invoked late 1960s minimalist art or my discussion of US inflation in the 1970s you might suspect from the very nature of the All the Adventures project I am something of a history nerd, and you’d right; however, I do tend to be a little more chill than my fellow nerdlings about inaccuracy and anachronism in media. As long as something recognizes it is a little gonzo I can roll with it, and this mention in the manual works for me. Maybe Ms. Williams (or by proxy, Mr. Williams) was just hoping to sell more copies to the educational market?

Also, this isn’t making excuses from a late printing. This is printed early enough that the manual advises players not to bother to send for hints until May 1982 (the game came out in March) “due to the large amount of information our support staff will need to absorb”.

It additionally helps the game starts with dinosaurs, and I’m always a sucker for dinosaurs–

After the dream of becoming savior of the universe you find a time machine in your back yard. Inside is a gas mask; be sure to remove it before going back in time, otherwise it will disappear (remember the manual!… and also welcome to 1982, where a softlock in giant adventure game can happen right at the start).

There’s dials to set time and continent. For 400MILBC there’s no need to set a location.

My first experience was to get quickly chomped by a dinosaur.

You get a turn before this happens, so I assume there’s something you can do to stop it (that is, this isn’t just a trap).

Look: I know these things are unmerciful. You just have to approach with the attitude that you’re collecting deaths, like Pokemon. (I have seen an adventure game streamer once accidentally pick the correct option off a list and go back to try the bad one to not miss out on the death scene.)

Like this death, where you get swept up by a “pteridactyl” and the game gives up for you on the next move:

Well, I don’t see any way out of this mess. You are enventually going to be dinner for the pteridactyl, so I will spare you and end the game right now.

Oh, there’s a swamp too.

The only bright spots have been the only object I’ve gotten (a sharp stick) and a friendly brontosaurus.

So, rough start? I might think to DIG but that verb isn’t recognized (it might be recognized on other disks; the manual indicates that verb vocabulary can be inconsistent across time zones). So while I haven’t eaten up much time as of yet, I thought here would be at least a good moment to write the opening, because I suspect the next hour will involve a lot of banging my a head against a wall, or at least a dinosaur.

HOURS PLAYED: 0.25

Posted January 15, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Time Zone (1982)   17 comments

There are some games that have loomed as dark, brooding hulks, games I have known about for a long time but have never touched.

I’ve been afraid of Time Zone ever since roughly I knew the All the Adventures project would be a thing, back in March of 2011.

“Audacious” is the right word. After Roberta Williams polished up her trilogy from 1980 (Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess, Mission: Asteroid) she wanted to make a game that kept going and going and going. From a Computer Gaming World interview, not long after release:

It’s not an easy game. And it’s not for beginners. It takes a really long time to get through TIME ZONE; even for someone who knows the answers. If I sit down to test TIME ZONE, it takes me a good week to go through it one time while testing it and I know the answers! Make sure you have GOOD maps. Use your imagination. Don’t give up. It’s going to take a LONG time.

I might get into details on the creation of Time Zone while amidst my playthrough, although Jimmy Maher already essentially has it covered. What I’m more interested in is the story of Roe Adams III, reviewer for Softalk, who (according to Steve Levy’s book Hackers) “went virtually without sleep for a week” to beat the game before declaring it “one of the greatest gaming feats in history.”

Just how plausible is this? Unfortunately, Hackers is a book that must be taken with several grains of salt (and as far I’ve been able to reckon, all later tellings of the story derive from it) but it does seem plausible to finish the game in the 150-odd hours that a week-with-very-little-sleep and no hints whatsoever would have entailed.

I’d like to test the theory, a little. Unlike most of my playthroughs, I’m going to keep a timer. Usually I don’t do this because

a.) I often play “off-and-on” and may dip in a game for five minutes to test a theory before leaving to do something else

b.) Sometimes an insight can occur “off the computer” so there is some element of “playing” even when the game is not at hand

c.) I don’t like time pressure in general

but I really am curious what the actual modern time to beat would be while avoiding hints as much as possible. Now, keep in mind I am using an emulator so I don’t have to worry about load times, but I also won’t have quite the “immersion experience” that Roe Adams III did, so maybe they’ll cancel each other out? One thing I do have going is that Roberta’s last substantial game, Wizard and the Princess, I managed to complete entirely without hints and found it basically fair, despite other accounts finding it much less fair. So possibly, I’m on the right wavelength for this.

The credits have a few more people involved other than just these, but apparently Terry Pierce did the lion’s share of the art.

I am still somewhat a sucker for the “pastoral opening” to an adventure game.

Let’s just go on a walk! And find out quite immediately after that we experienced a vivid dream.

Why we are uniquely able to defeat the evil ruler of the Planet Neburon I am unclear on, but I assume some technology like the TARDIS is afoot, where the time machine always goes where it needs to be.

It begins.

HOURS PLAYED: 0

Posted January 10, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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