Archive for the ‘worlds-edge’ Tag

World’s Edge (1980)   2 comments

After the last game’s frustrating trip with one of the worst parsers ever, I thought it prudent to return to an author that seems to have his act together on two-word parser control: Greg Hassett.

It really is a relief to have a variety of messages that are explicit about when the game doesn’t know what to do, ex:

>STAB GRASS

I DON’T SEE THAT AROUND ME

>EAT KNIFE

YECH! WOULDN’T DARE!

>KICK

I NEED A DIRECT OBJECT AS WELL.

>KICK STONE

HAR HAR HAR. FIGHTING SOMETHING THAT ISN’T ALIVE. LOOK, I’VE HAD A HARD DAY…

>WAVE SWORD

WHAT IS “SWORD”?

These types of messages are essential to a good flow. When the parser breaks down, text games need to explain what happened as transparently as possible.

You start the game outside with some hooting owls, and find a barn with a letter from NASA:

Yes, the big future world threat is … smog.

Also, to solve our eco-crisis, we are stealing (?) something (2.2 kg of APC-80) sacred to the natives of another planet. This reads as if a pair of authors, one politically left-leaning and one right-leaning, decided to get together to write a book but they just mixed their paragraphs in alternating order without editing.

Near the barn is a silo; once you break in, the silo turns out to be a rocket ship, and you can pull the lever to find yourself on an alien planet.

Upon arrival, you find a very minor swamp maze, the kind common to Greg Hassett which lacks the east-one-way-goes-south-the-other type connection, and just includes a few loops:

As an aside, one of these days I want to come up with a numerical metric that specifies how difficult an adventure-game maze is. Ratio of normal-connections to crazy-connections, maybe.

I haven’t got much farther than that. There’s a “holofame” where I can try out a “credit disc” …

… and a “space amoeba” guarding a “glowstone”.

I heard secondhand the amoeba was the hardest puzzle. I’m not sure if I should be solving a different puzzle first.

I have: a sickle (which I already used to cut some grass), a needle (used to pick a lock), a jetpack (not used yet, but I don’t have fuel), a pointy knife, and a piece of plastic (that blows me up when I try to drop it). I suspect if I can get to the other side of the vent (mentioned in the “tall chamber” room description) I could drop the explosives down there and destroy the amoeba safely, but that would likely require using the jetpak.

As is usual, feel free to speculate in the comments, and if you know the game already, use ROT13.

Posted August 2, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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World’s Edge: Finished!   Leave a comment

In my last post, I mentioned how much better the parser is in this game than the average two-word parser, so of course, I ran into a parser issue … sort of.

It’s the fault of the three-letter limit. Most games from this era (in order to save space) only stored the first three letters of any verb or noun, so there is no way to distinguish between a LADDER and a LADLE or a TANK and a TANGERINE.

I mentioned finding a jetpak. It came with instructions.

TO START THE JETPAK, SAY “START”.

I was thinking of the game-logic we’ve seen elsewhere where START is a verb. Indeed, I later tested it and found you can >START JETPAK (although I maybe should have thought a little harder about the fact you can’t do this while holding the device).

I also had found a knife and noticed >STAB worked as a verb.

I hope you see the problem now, because it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize it. Not only does “STA” map to “STAB”, but the game says “I HAVE NO KNIFE!!!” if you try to use the verb while not holding the knife. I must have not tested out the jetpak until after I had the knife.

>START JETPAK
DOESN’T WORK.

This led me to think I needed fuel for the jetpak first. In actuality it starts with some fuel.

I guess “stabbing that isn’t possible” would be the best response, but this was mostly my fault. The right command was “SAY START” (which is the exact wording on the paper!) If you do this outside the cave with the amoeba (the room description mentions a cliff visible above):

>SAY START
I AM ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF. I WOULDN’T WANT TO JUMP…
I CAN GO EAST

At least I called the amoeba puzzle correctly. There’s a hole above the space amoeba room, and if you drop the exploding plastic and go in the hole afterward, you find the amoeba has been replaced by a pool of water.

The rest of the game is straightforward (it took me about 10 minutes to beat) and I was weirdly reminded of my recent experience with Lost Ship Adventure where getting past a “stuck” part led to a rush through the rest of the game. However, I wasn’t disappointed in the same way, and it’s a comparable enough situation it’s interesting to pinpoint the difference. Let me briefly run through the remainder of the events of World’s Edge first:

Once you get the glowstone from the amoeba, you can use it to find a “space-troll” in an adjacent room.

Getting by the troll has an element of the dragon fake-out in Adventure; rather than doing any puzzle solving, just start a fight:

>KICK TROLL
WOW! I BEAT UP THE TROLL! NOW *THERE’S* SOMETHING I’M GONNA TELL MY GRANDCHILDREN…

Also nearby is a room with “spork tracks”. There’s a “spork horn” elsewhere, and if you use it here, a spork appears.

You can stab the spork with your knife, which is just as silly as it sounds.

ITS LAST WORDS ARE: “PLEASE… PLEASE DON’T CRACK MY EGG…”
IT KICKS THE BUCKET AND VANISHES.

As intrepid sociopath adventurers, the next action is CRACK EGG:

A BABY SPORK COMES OUT, SAYS “GO BACK TO THE CAVE ENTRANCE” AND RUNS OFF.

Following the baby spork’s advice, you find a note at the cave entrance.

DROP THE POWDER HERE, GO BACK TO THE HOLOFAME, AND YOU’LL FIND A CREDIT DISC.

The disc gives you the hint as to what to use as jetpak fuel.

The water from the former space amoeba works; this lets you use it one more time and get to a city.

I’m not narrating the rest blow-by-blow, but here’s the general sequence:

  • Bribe a guard with one of the holofame cards
  • Find a “Starhawk Fighter” at “Honest Quoron’s Used Spacecraft’ and give it fuel by filling up a flower point
  • Fill a pistol with an energy capsule and blast open a safe with APC-80 crystals
  • Steal the Starhawk Fighter and fly to victory

Even though these actions aren’t hard to suss out, they were fundamentally more fun than Lost Ship Adventure. Example: In that game, there was a chest that was locked. You had a key. You unlocked the chest with the key. Great! Problem solved. (Yawn.) Here, you had a laser pistol and a safe. You blast the safe with the pistol, and the safe vaporizes. As an action, the first is pedestrian, the second is colorful and a bit amusing. The quality of puzzles was not so much about the difficulty but about the actual action being taken as a piece of narrative.

It’s tempting, when evaluating adventures both old and modern, to separate the crossword from the narrative (so to speak). Evaluating if an easy puzzle is any fun or not makes a good case that sometimes, they have to be considered both at the same time.

I mean, we used water from a space amoeba we blew up as jetpak fuel. Even though the game is quite explicit about what to do (we’re informed by none other than James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise), the act of doing it isn’t just a rote exercise.

If you consider the Really Well Renowned Puzzles from adventure game history, you get things like the time travel puzzle from Sorcerer or That One (You Know the One) from Spider and Web where the entire span of both deciding what to do an enacting the action are interesting at a narrative level. Compare to, say, finding a paper with the digits that lead to a safe combination; with enough atmosphere and context this can hold narrative heft, but too many adventure games consider the mere existence of a puzzle to be enough.

Next time, we’re staying with the “fly a rocket ship elsewhere to save the Earth” theme and visiting Sierra (aka On-Line Systems) in their last 1980 game. I’ve beaten the two Sierra games we’ve seen so far without any hints; will the trend continue?

Posted August 3, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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