There is a particular art to reviving a half-finished adventure game. Quite often I find I have to restart because I have a.) lost my maps or b.) lost the thread of the plot.
b.) is no worry: there’s no plot. As for a.), I posted my most recent map on the last post on this blog (back in 2011) so I don’t have to reconstruct everything. I still have the same sluggish feeling about this game though, so I need a battle plan.
I went to the hint file and pulled out the list of all the treasures as well as all the things that get points. Fingers crossed: a checklist might help me psychologically get through this thing.
Two puzzles are spoiled below.
Click on the image for a PDF version of the map.
Work has delayed me a bit in finishing Stuga, but also Stuga itself has been stalling me; I’ve been having a hard time working up the energy to play it in my spare moments. I’ve being trying to isolate why. One reason is the puzzles (more on that in a second) but also because Stuga turns out to be another “find the treasures and gather them in the right location” plot, but without any time limit via expiring lantern batteries or otherwise. This seems like it ought to make it easier for me to want to play, but oddly once I realized there was no time pressure it was causing the opposite. I think it’s perhaps because there’s appeal in these old games still (and uniquely for the era) as an optimization puzzle, and I was having fun in Zork (for example) plotting out the best route to take to grab the diamond, like I was a real adventurer plotting over a dusty map. Stuga makes me feel not like I’m a character in some world, but an avatar of an avatar; like LASH, controlling someone not myself who is themselves controlling a robot from a distance. This is all weird and irrational and imprecise but that’s the best way I can express how it feels.
The puzzles, also, to use the words of Jimmy Maher, are either extremely simple or blatantly unfair. In my last post the word SESAME was mentioned in a room, prompting David Welbourn to say his next command would be OPEN SESAME. Well, it’s almost as easy as that — it’s just SESAME, and you use it at a locked gate and that’s that.
On the other hand, there’s a dark room. If you type TAKE (not TAKE ALL or any other variation) you will pick up a hidden lamp, and then be told the lamp will disappear if you leave the room so you should “stay put”. So you type STAY and then wait (in real time, yes, you actually sit still for 30 seconds) and then you get scooped out of the room and get to keep the lamp.
The Muppet sequence in my last post has been the best puzzle so far, just because it turned out to be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure interlude with binary choices where figuring out the correct route led to a treasure. It was so unique and weird it was oddly fun to work out.
In the midst of mapping a maze I came across this:
You are on the edge of a deep well. If you jump down you won’t get back up!
Little you is winding.
Fozzi the bear is sitting here asking:
What’s your name ? Jason
Someone says: This is THE MUPPET SHOW with tonight’s guest artist: jason
The curtain rises and you are on a stage with Kermit the frog. The puppet audience is applauding.
Answer RUN or PERFORM : perform
Kermit asks you if you want to sing or tell a story.
Answer SING or TELL : sing
You start singing: I’m a poor lonesome cowboy and a long way from home…
The audience is cheering but the singers Wayne & Wanda are angry with you for taking their place. They want to kill you!
Answer PEACE (with Wayne & Wanda) or FOLLOW (Kermit) : peace
You approach Wayne & Wanda to make your peace with them.
You decide not to sing anymore so that W&W can keep their job. Fozzi comes up and says:
Enter an interest that you have! Dice
Fozzi gives his thanks and leaves. There is a door to your left.
Answer FOLLOW (Fozzi) or LEFT : follow
Now Fozzi enters a door. There’s also a door forward.
Answer FOLLOW (Fozzi) or FORWARD : follow
You are inside a torture-chamber. The door locked itself behind you! The walls are closing in. The only way out is blocked by a monster!
Answer RUN (out) or STAY : run
You run straight into a monster devouring vegetables! He grabs you and throws you high into the air.
You are in the loft, a small nook at the top of the house. From here you can go everywhere. On the wall it says: SESAME
A little faun runs in intending to tread on your foot but he loses a shoe and runs away howling.
You are in the Swiss clock room.
There is a faun shoe here.
A horde of fauns comes rushing out. Nnnnnow you are a pulp.
Do you want me to bring you back to life ? no
WHAT? Don’t you trust me? Only yesterday I revived a DEC-2020 and it worked for several minutes…
But I won’t make a fuss. Have it your way.
I’m starting to get the hang of this, somewhat. The short minimalist descriptions do have one advantage: they make it entirely reasonable to play in a split screen format, with a map on one side and the game window in the other.
The only issue is once I swapped my mental key as to “top of page” meaning “forward” and “bottom of page” meaning “backward” so my forward and backward exits were all wrong in a section.
Since “I just mapped some more” doesn’t make an exciting post, let me mention ASCII art. I’ve seen two instances so far in Stuga, here’s one:
A small faun appears.
He throws a knife at you… It hits you! !
Do you want me to bring you back to life ? yes
OK, but don’t blame me if something goes wr…
POFF!!! You are surrounded by a cloud of green gas!!
You’re alive! When the gas has dispersed You can see that
You are in a grave. There’s a musty smell here. The priest is looking down. He looks like this:
It’s interesting that Zork from the early 1977-1978 period also had ASCII art. It’s like the impulse for graphics was already bubbling.
I’m in the “mapping” phase of playing Stuga, and the LEFT/RIGHT/FORWARD/BACK is making things a pain. Just to be clear, this is fixed relative directions, so LEFT from a particular room will always go the same way.
With Zork even though there were numerous passages where going west and then east would not lead you back where you started, with here the tendency is pathological and it’s impossible to even guess what a good spacial relationship would be. With my tangled mess up there I can see the Hilbert room and its accompanying exits could be better placed, but I only knew that after painstaking drawing and testing. I’ve taken up saving when I enter a room with many exits and restoring to test all of them rather than returning the way I came because so often I don’t know which way to go back.
My second attempt made LEFT = left side of map, RIGHT = right side of map and so on for an ounce of sanity.
It’s still somewhat insane and disconcerting, though. Even though it’s functionally equivalent to N/S/E/W I’m still very uncomfortable while playing. Do any of my Swedish readers know if this became a common thing in Swedish games, or if most of them are in traditional compass directions?
Also: the lift has access to nine floors. Eek!
The alternate ending for Twilight.
I’ve been corresponding with Bob Sorem, authors of one of the ports of Mystery Mansion. It’s easy to to forget the context of these games: this was a mainframe game in the time many did not own personal computers, and so for some this was the only computer game they had access to for years. Hence: obsessive playing and perfection. Bob writes that he was disappointed if he got anything less than 999 out of 999 points.
(Bob answered all of my questions and also sent a complete map set which he has given permission to post here, so I am very grateful to his help.)
One of the peculiar things I learned from him which doesn’t seem clued at all in the game, is that the odd messages I’ve mentioned
YOU HEARD A WOMAN SCREAM
YOU HEARD A WOLF HOWL
YOU HEARD A CROW CAW AS IT FLEW BY
YOU HEARD SOME ROCKS FALLING NEARBY
which occur every hour (on the half hour — there are traditional clock bells on the hour) are also scoring opportunities. Immediately after one of those messages occurs you can SCORE POINTS to get a bonus 2 points. This can be awkward timing if you’re about to stake a vampire or fight a wolf so does cause a little extra caution, like one of random Achievement challenges in a modern game (shooting all the cameras in Portal, say).
I approached things with lower standards than 999 out of 999 points. I consider a winning run to:
a.) Kill the threats: vampire, werewolf, wolf, and warrior.
b.) Expose the murderer and hand him or her to the police.
c.) Raid the treasure in the “treasure trek” maze.
Still, this was rather a challenge to wrangle everything.
- The characters will sometimes pick up items and wander off with them. Relatedly, the murder weapon (needed to accuse the murderer) can be tricky to locate. Fortunately there’s a parrot that can be used to FIND items (it says so in the description, so you don’t have to guess at that at least).
- Part of a successful run requires a trip to a “mole maze” where the mole sometimes changes the exits. Should I marvel at the innovation (dynamic map changes!), or just be really annoyed? My method of coping was to tackle the maze first thing after getting the compass, but even then multiple attempts were required.
In the “treasure trek” maze (which occurs after figuring out the amulet-cavity deal from my last post) you are also outrunning rising water so you have to be careful not to drown. (Trivia note: when activating this section the route to the mole maze collapses and the mole maze rooms are “reused” for this maze as a way of saving memory.)
The conditions where you can or can’t do things are mysterious and seem to occasionally depend on the time of day. For example, there’s a wooden wedge in a pile of wood, but sometimes you can’t reach it.
THE WOOD IS STACKED TOO HIGH.
then for no reason I am quite sure of, later attempting a staking sometimes result in
> kill vampire
YOU HAVE NOT FIGURED OUT HOW NOT DO THAT YET.
Fortunately there’s an alternate (brilliant) way of killing the vampire which I will discuss in the comments.
To be a little more positive, there’s just so many ways of handling things. For example, to find the murderer you can question people until someone gives their suspicions, LISTEN during a conversation (for example when the MASTER and the BUTLER are in the same room), hear it on the radio from a police announcement, or learn about it from a magic scroll. Alternately, you could presume everyone is guilty and shoot everyone in the house (Grand Theft Auto mashed up with L.A. Noire, so to speak).
One bit that helped was an extra dollop of science fiction onto the genre pile
IT IS THE LABORATORY OF THE MAD SCIENTIST. THERE ARE SEVERAL PIECES OF EQUIPMENT HERE WHICH ARE ALL HUMMING READY TO WORK. IT SORT OF LOOKS LIKE THE TRANSPORTER ROOM OUT OF A STAR TREK MOVIE. LARGE WINDOWS OVERLOOK THE GROUNDS. THERE IS A DOOR TO THE SOUTH AND A SMALL DOOR ON THE FLOOR.
There’s a MATTER XMITTER and a MATTER RECEIVER that let you BEAM UP and BEAM DOWN to teleport to the laboratory and from the laboratory to where the matter receiver is. I placed the matter receiver at the exit so I could teleport at the very end.
In any case, after midnight the Mansion explodes, so I made my exit to triumph:
YOU HAVE BEATEN THE ODDS AND HAVE DONE THE IMPOSSIBLE. YOU HAVE SURVIVED MYSTERY MANSION AND YOU CAN NOW SEE IT GOING UP IN SMOKE BEFORE YOU.
YOUR SCORE INCLUDES 84 POINTS FOR THE ITEMS YOU HAVE WITH YOU.
NOW YOU HAVE TO WALK TO THE BIG CITY.
YOU SCORED 804 POINTS WHICH RATES YOU AS A SLEUTH.
YOU PLAYED 70 MINUTES REAL TIME AND 18.0 HOURS GAME TIME OR 31 % UTILIZATION.
There are three parts I missed, according to the nebulous and nearly incomprehensible source code. First, there’s gold coins found by doing … something … somewhere. Also, SLEEP is not just an intransitive word (see the image clip on top of this post) and there’s even a way to succeed (ranking Mystery Mansion as the first computer game of any type to include sexuality) but I have no idea how. Finally, there’s a way to call a taxi (you don’t have to walk back to town as per the ending text) but the phone always gives me a busy signal; I don’t know if I need perfect timing or what exactly.
Still, I think I’ve got the full experience. I can start to see — at the end of my journey, mind you — why HP mainframe users were addicted; once the game is “figured out” it becomes more of a re-playable strategy game with multiple endings. Getting a perfect score would require reckoning with the random aspect to the mystery, the strange SCORE POINTS mechanism, and the fact visiting every new room is worth points.
At least one person is anticipating my final post on Mystery Mansion, so let me share what has me stuck.
While two word parsers (which I’ll be seeing more of in 1978) are problematic, usually with a verb list it is possible to work out how to communicate.
There’s also the ideal of Zork and beyond, which is a multi-word parser that handles both two word and complex sentences smoothly enough I don’t have to pull my hair over the parser.
Then there’s Mystery Mansion, which also understands more than two words in its parser, but this turns out quite unfortunate.
For example, LOOK AT THING is how you examine objects. EXAMINE doesn’t work as a verb, and just LOOK THING gives a “not understood” message.
Here’s another example that increased my blood pressure:
> kill warrior
YOU KILLED THE WARRIOR
> look at warrior
YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE WARRIOR
A METAL SHIELD
A PARANOID PARROT
A MENACING MACE
AND IS DEAD
> get parrot from warrior
I DON’T SEE THE PARROT
> take parrot from warrior
YOUR BOOTY NOW CONTAINS THE PARROT
Note that GET by itself normally does work
> get note
YOUR BOOTY NOW CONTAINS THE NOTE
but in the case of taking from a dead body, only TAKE works. You can also TAKE just by itself, no preposition
> take mace
YOUR BOOTY NOW CONTAINS THE MACE
but the failure of GET led me on a extremely long battle with the parser where I presumed some sort of prepositional phrase was necessary and I just needed to guess the right phrase.
I’m struggling at the moment with amulets and a lever system.
YOU ARE IN A LARGE TREASURE ROOM. IT LOOKS LIKE THERE USE TO BE A LOT OF VALUABLE ARTICLES HERE ONCE. YOU NOTICE A SMALL CAVITY IN THE MIDDLE OF A DRAWING ON THE WALL. THERE IS A LADDER GOING UP, WHICH IS ALL SLIMY.
> look at drawing
YOU ARE LOOKING AT A DRAWING OF SOME KIND OF A LEVER SYSTEM CENTERED AROUND A TRIANGULAR CAVITY CUT IN THE WALL.
According to Bob Sorem I’m supposed to use the amulet somehow, but I have yet to find a two-word or many-word phrase that does anything at all useful. I have a verb list. I’m not playing just guess the verb, but guess the phrase.