Haunt: Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent   1 comment

1950: Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent sings while accompanied by Harry S. Truman (33rd President of the United States) on piano.

This puppet-based TV show (Time for Beany) ran from 1949 to 1955, leading to the cartoon version (Beany and Cecil) which ran from 1959-1962.

At this point you may suspect you have wandered into the wrong blog, but I swear this is relevant to Haunt. From a few posts ago I mentioned this note:

Dear B___ie,
I ran out of air and had to come here. The moss isn’t nutritious enough to survive on. I hope you can use the diamonds.
Take care of _ec_l and he will take care up you.
Diver Dan

I had guessed the name was “Cecil” but was stumped up to there. Cue up a scene on the beach:

There is cool sand beneath your feet.

>DIG

There is a large conch shell here.

>GET SHELL

You now own conch .

>BLOW SHELL

‘Toot!! Toot!!’ The water near the beach begins to bubble.
A large form emerges from the foam.
There is a large sea serpent here. He looks friendly and he ‘slurp!’ licks your face.

Attempting to >PET SERPENT doesn’t work:

The sea serpent should be address by its real name.

You need to instead >PET CECIL:

The sea serpent replys: ‘Hi Beanie Boy.’
If you ever need help, you know what to say.

Well. You know what to say if you are well versed in 60s TV cartoons, or at least Google searches. A scene later:

The water is a little cooler here.
Something grabs the speargun from you and tosses it away.
There is a vicious eel here. He grabs you and starts squeezing.
You have time for one last request.
There are huge pearls here!!!

>HELP CECIL HELP

‘I’m coming Beanie boy!’
Cecil grabs the eel by the neck and hurls it away.
There is a large sea serpent here. He looks friendly and he ‘slurp!’ licks your face.

>HELP CECIL or >CECIL HELP do not work. (With the first, in fact, the game generates a random insult.) It has to be the exact catchphrase from the show of >HELP CECIL HELP.

. . .

Just to be clear, I did *not* figure out the above on my own. Rather, I decided to send an email to the original author of the game (John Laird) who helpfully replied! So progress continues, but I’ve got at least one very tough puzzle to crack before it’s over.

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Posted August 13, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Haunt: Escaped (but not Finished)   4 comments

As a word of warning, I’m spoiling the end of the game, even though I haven’t reached the end of the game.

This picture is mainly here for spoiler space, but I’m sure all of you can agree $8500 for a computer is quite a deal. DEC ad via Vintage Ad Browser.

There’s been a “unicorn horn” I’ve been toting around for a while, but it never occurred to me to BLOW HORN. This causes a spirit to appear with a cryptic hint.

As your family is sheep, the gold that is YOUR color must be found before you can escape this estate.

Hmm. “Family sheep”, gold that is “your color”. This must mean “white”, but what could the “gold” be then? There is actual gold in the game but it wasn’t referring to that.

It was in fact referring to a bone in a grave I found before even entering the house:

>dig

Luckily, the dirt is soft.
There is a open grave.
There is a bone here that you identify as from the MISSING LINK!

A little extra persistence yields:

>dig

There is a large pipe that goes through the grave.
There is a lever on the pipe labelled ‘Emergency Release.’

Pull the lever and a truck eventually comes to do maintenance. You can sneak on the truck, escape, and get the endgame message:

VaVoom! The truck has started up.
Bump bump! You feel yourself being driven out of the yard.
As you drive by the gate you hear from the speaker:
‘Good job son!’
The truck drives on for a while then stops.
Your open the truck door and find that you are outside the walls.
You’ve escaped!
In the distance you here the trumpeting of a bull moose. James Watt is here with a check for $10,000,000 to buy the land for the Department of the Interior. He assures you that the government will not sell the land, but admits that he may allow some leasing of mineral rights. You have the option of selling it and making big bucks, or you can donate, with the restriction that it be perserved in its current state.
What is your choice? Sell, or donate?

>SELL does not go well:

Hmm. I don’t think your father would have approved.
Oh my god! Out of the forest a moose comes charging at you.
He is coming right at you. You can’t escape.
ARGHH! He gored you, but missed James Watt.

>DONATE leads to the “win”:

James Watt accuses you of being a reactionary idiot.
He stomps off, mumbling, ‘Those strip miners are going to be real disappointed’, and walks right through a pile of moose turds.

I think you made the right decision.
The party’s over.
Your final score is 40
The total possible is 440
Rank Novice! Are you scared of your own shadow?

Unfortunately, I can’t translate this into a “final win” yet because I can’t escape the house! When you go in the front door it shuts and locks behind you:

A booming voice proclaims:
‘YOU WON’T GET OUT BY A DOOR.’
‘… at least alive!’

There’s also a handful of treasures eluding me, including a safe with a three-number combination (and no text anywhere I’ve found yet hinting what that combination might be). Next time it’s either going to be victory or deadlock.

In case you’re curious as to who James Watt is, he was appointed by Reagan as Secretary of the Interior (1981-1983). This is the cover from MAD Magazine, October 1982.

Posted August 7, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Haunt: Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll   4 comments

The original author of Haunt (John Laird) once worked on a sequel called Haunt 2 using the Unreal Tournament engine. This is a screenshot from the now-abandoned project.

Before I get into the triad mentioned in my title, let’s warp back to the very beginning of the game. You have a “token” in your inventory which turns out to let you bypass the whole trivia section I was getting hung up on earlier, as long as you BITE TOKEN.

The token disolves in your mouth.
Your mind fills with a question you MUST answer.
‘What is your name?’
>WHATEVER
‘Second, which sex (male, female, …) interests you sexually
>SOMETHING
‘Your mother would faint if she knew that.’
‘POOF!’
You are on the driveway. The gate to the outside is to the east, but is locked electronically.
To the east is a wall.

I’ll refer back to this later. Now, for some reverse order

III.

… I mentioned this in passing last time, but it’s worth spending a little more time because I’m not sure if it’s meant as just a gag, or if there’s some puzzle-solving related to it I haven’t solved yet. When you first get to the house, “Muffled sounds can be heard inside.” Getting farther gets messages like “weird noises are coming from above” until you reach:

The noise is very loud, it sounds like someone is being flogged with chains!
This hall runs east-west.

>WEST

I can hardly hear myself think.
You now recognize the noise as being an ALICE COOPER GREATEST HITS ALBUM.
You are at a dead end.
A wire can be seen along the wall. It is just visible above the carpet.

>PULL WIRE

The wire SNAPS!
‘Silence!’

It may just be playing with the theme that spooky houses should play spooky music, but the game is also generally mean enough to require some other action here to win the game.

II.

Fairly close by to the entrance you can find a “refrigerator” with a “small white cube”.

>LICK CUBE

UHM! That tasted good!!!

>EAT CUBE

The cube tastes like sugar. You are suddenly surrounded by a herd of moose. They start talking to you about a moose-load of things.
One walks over to you and whispers, ‘Fa Lowe, why her?’
You look at your watch, but the hands suddenly spin!
You find yourself staring at the
m
o
o
s
e
?
for a long time, and enjoying it.

I’m not sure what “Fa Lowe” is a reference to, but I did find it on Google given as an actual last name. This also marks the third mysterious name I’ve run across addressed to the player. In my last post I mentioned a note from “Dad” which refers to you as “Bas” and one from “Diver Dan” which refers to you (or someone else?) as “B___ie”. (That’s three underscore marks; based on the other places where they appear in the game, that means exactly three letters.) The same note also says “Take care of _ec_l and he will take care up you.”

There’s enough weight and significance I have put some thought into putting these together, including trying to name the main character “Bas” in case it helps reduce the madness effect of the house. (It didn’t work, but maybe it’s a nickname.) The prologue says the ancestor should not go mad – maybe somehow your character isn’t the ancestor if you don’t name them correctly?

I.

Since last time I managed to get by the “intercept every input” puzzle:

This is the cheese room. The only opening is a trap door above, too high to reach. The walls are made of cheese.
There is a ghost in the room.
Its nose is pink, I believe it has been drinking too much.

>BOO

The ghost is scared to death and disappears.

>EAT WALL

I really prefer my cheese in smaller pieces, but we can give it a try. CHOMP CHOMP..
There is a hole in the west wall, with teeth marks around the edges.

Recall earlier I need to specify “(male, female, …)”. I typed “whatever” which led to this scene …

You are in the torture chamber.
A steel door slammed shut when you entered.
There are no other doors or windows.
There is a good looking whatever entrapped.

… and soon after, this.

The whatever likes you. You make love, talk a little, smoke a cigarette, take a nap, make love, talk, make love, take a nap, make love, etc. You get a gift and then you make love, talk, etc.
Finally the whatever tells you good bye and turns to smoke and disappears through the cold air return duct, overhead.
There are matches here.

I don’t have a lot of insight to provide, other than to note this is hardly the first mainframe game we’ve seen with this sort of thing; I’m especially reminded of the ending of Castle where you rescue both the prince and princess and end up in Nirvana together. At the hobbyist level, there wasn’t yet as much a division between “adult” and mainstream material.

Posted August 6, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Haunt: I Was Never Able to Resurrect Your Mother   1 comment


The back of a PDP-10, the mainframe upon which Haunt runs. Via Sun-collector at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The backstory mentions that previous visitors to the house fell into madness. This is not an idle threat – while there doesn’t seem to be any light source timers or the like, symptoms and warnings start appearing, until:

You can’t stand it anymore, you are now totally crazy!
You start laughing uncontrollably, but choke on your tongue.
Ugh! Well at least you died happy!

The game hints there’s a way to cure the affliction (that is, you don’t just need to outright beat the game fast enough) but I’m currently at a loss. It may have to do with the plot, which I’ll get into later.

. . .

First, a tour of the map.

The main entrance to the house leads to a monster (easily placated by candy), Dracula (not so easily placated, I haven’t defeated him yet) and and Alice Cooper Greatest Hits album being run on a loop which causes general screaming through the house until it is shut off.

When you open the casket you notice that a well dressed man
with pale skin is inside. He appears dead.
There is a huge diamond ring on his left hand.
Suddenly his eyes blink open, you notice the irises are red.
It is Dracula. Oops.
The casket is open.
Dracula has left his casket and is approaching you.
>KILL DRACULA
Look turkey breath, this guy isn’t the jolly green giant.
You’ll never kill him in this room.
>N
Dracula stays in the dark room.
You are in upper hall .
You hear clanking and screams coming from the hall.

There’s incidentally a back entrance you can get to by climbing up some ivy, but there’s essentially just a master bedroom where I am stuck.

You are in what looks like the master bedroom of the mansion.
A large doorway opens to the balcony to the north.
To the east is a opening to the bathroom.
The main doorway to the rest of the house is boarded up and impassable.
There is a king-size bed in the middle of the room.
Some noise can be heard through the boarded up door.
There is a mirror on the ceiling above the bed.

You can sleep in the bed, but the game just makes fun of you:

Snooze…
.
.
.
.
.
… snort. Ah that was refreshing, but useless, you’re still ugly.

This “duct” section confused me for a while – if you go “up” or “down” you go endlessly. It appears to be an Escher “endless rising staircase” style setup, and there are only in reality 3 levels. If you’re careful, you can find a kitchen and then an elevator.

You are in the elevator.
There are a bunch of buttons on the wall.
They are labeled: P, H, B, HALT, OPEN DOOR.
Scrawled on a wall is ‘Homer kisses dead goats’
and ‘Homer turns my head’
On the floor it says, ‘L__t g_e_ _ere!’
The H is lit.

The “L__t g_e_ _ere!” suggests perhaps “Loot goes here!” but there is no score increase from dropping loot in the elevator, which perhaps suggest the elevator is greedy and merely lying.

Also, the instructions claim you get extra points for dropping the treasures on the lawn outside the house, but I haven’t been able to do this yet to find out if the instructions are lying too.

I mentioned this area in my last post – you go down to a secret wine cellar (which seems to have an infinite number of rooms, but there may just be more than anyone would have patience to map) and then into the “Cheese Room” which intercepts all inputs. I still haven’t gotten past this part.

Finally, the elevator leads to a giant ocean (modeled in by 6 by 6 by 6, with all the rooms present – I started just coloring squares on graph paper) which includes a giant monster, and octopus, and an eel:

The water is a little cooler here.
Something grabs the speargun from you and tosses it away.
There is a vicious eel here. He grabs you and starts squeezing.
You have time for one last request.
There are huge pearls here!!!

I’m not sure what last request would be helpful here. There’s also this place:

As you go up, you come out of the water and are on dry ground.
You are in a warm cave. There is a hot spring down below.
The PLACE is lit with luminous moss. The only way out is by the spring. There is a rusted old diving helmet on the ground that is immovable. Next to it is a skeleton and a note scrawled on the wall.
Dear B___ie,
I ran out of air and had to come here. The moss isn’t nutritious enough to survive on. I hope you can use the diamonds.
Take care of _ec_l and he will take care up you.
Diver Dan
There are diamonds here!

. . .

One other location has this scene (where “wife” can change based an earlier choice):

This is a tiny closet. Against the wall is a skeleton.
Scrawled on the wall, next to the skeleton is:
Dear Bas,
So the mystery man finally decides to come home.
Well you’re a little late.
I was never able to resurrect your mother, but I saw in the paper that you have a beautiful redheaded wife, and a lovely child. I only hope she hasn’t inherited our disease.
I finally succumbed to the illness when I was unable to take care of the crop.
Good luck,
Dad

If you’re puzzled, you may want to go back and re-read the opening text. In any case, the “Orkhisnoires sakioannes” reference earlier occurs again, and since the intro claims it plays some part in the general madness of the house, my guess is that figuring out what’s going on with the hereditary disease is crucial for survival and winning the game.

It’s a weirdly poignant dollop on top of what is a generally wacky and geographically confused game. I’m still enjoying myself, but I worry about I’m getting close to hitting a wall on puzzles. We’ll see next time.

Posted August 3, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Haunt: Intercepting Every Input   3 comments

I’ve made it inside the House and am trying to build up a substantial enough map to discuss it in detail. In the meantime, I’ve run into a trick I’ve only seen a handful of times before (once in Philosopher’s Quest) where a puzzle intercepts nearly every possible input:

*e

There is a trap door on the floor, stuck open.
Written on it is ‘Only way out, Cantor’
You are in rows of wine racks that stretch out of sight in all directions.

*d

This is the cheese room. The only opening is a trap door
above, too high to reach. The walls are made of cheese.
There is a ghost in the room.
Its nose is pink, I believe it has been drinking too much.

*inventory

Although inebrious, the ghost blocks your attempt to inventory

*u

Although crapulous, the fiend hinders your attempt to u

*s

Although soused, the fiend stops your attempt to s

The only thing I’m able to do without getting stopped is >DROP items and to >QUIT the game.

>QUITting mentions it was more scared of me than I was of it, which I suppose is supposed to be a hint.

Posted August 1, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Haunt: The Big Empty   2 comments

Thanks to my hardy commentators, I got past the self-referential in-joke trivia puzzle that starts the game, and made it to a big empty map.

Outside the House. This map omits another row of rooms on the west and south sides that are all empty.

Some of this is clearly the side effect of being a mainframe game. But some of it is philosophy.

I should note that while Zork and Acheton were large and full of rooms, there wasn’t a lot of “wasted space”. Even piling on yet another maze room lent something to the gameplay (not necessarily a positive thing, but a thing).

Here the map is of a style with a grid containing so much empty space it might be better (perhaps originally was) on graph paper. You’re at a wall -> a wall -> a wall -> a lawn -> a lawn -> a lawn -> a lawn.

With this style in adventure games one can’t simply skip checking every room, because of course there’s got to be something different hidden about. In this case, the northeast corner contains a grave you can dig. There’s also an empty garden and empty garage that might be used later for something, but it’s hard to know at this point.

We’ve seen a map resembling this before with Warp (another mainframe game) but what I really associate this style to is early Sierra games. Time Zone, for instance, is full of maps like this one:

japanmap

One of the time periods in Japan, via Kim Schuette’s Book of Adventure Games.

This carried on to the King’s Quest games (up to King’s Quest V, at least) where the player might need to swim about an entire ocean just to find one special location.

Really, the logic isn’t bad – you’re outside, you should be able to go all four directions, the map should just be a grid. Still, the actual effect is close to literal lawnmowering and it’s interesting how little this style gets used any more.

Posted July 26, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Haunt (1979-1982)   12 comments

DEC mainframe. Picture from the Retro-Computing Society of Rhode Island.

The author of Haunt, John Laird, states it was developed at Carnegie Mellon around 1980-1981, so while the game itself claims the wide span in the title, it’s fair to call this one a “1980 game” (but not wrong if someone puts it at 1979 either).

The setup on this one is strange enough I’m just going to quote verbatim:

Along time ago, a young couple was picnicing near the woods on the outskirts of town. They were celebrating the birth of their first child. Unfortunately, a crazed moose inhabited that area and attacked them. The child and husband were unharmed, but the wife was gored to death by the moose.

After the funeral, the man bought the land where the incident occurred and constructed a large mansion: CHEZ MOOSE. He filled it with the treasures of his family and claimed that his wife’s soul was still in the area. He vowed to remain in the mansion until he had returned her soul to human flesh. He tried to bridge the gap between life and death to reclaim her. Some say he was insane with grief, but others claimed that the madness was in his blood, and his wife’s death brought it to the surface. After he entered the house, he never returned, and was declared dead seven years later. Several people have entered the mansion looking for him but none of them have ever returned. There were rumors that he and his wife now haunt the house.

That would be the end of the story except that the house still stands and is filled with priceless treasures. The house and all its contents are willed to his only descendant. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, the day the mother was killed, the child was stolen by Gypsies. The Will claims that only the descendant will know how to avoid going crazy and committing suicide while spending a night in the mansion. An obscure hereditary disease, Orkhisnoires sakioannes, is supposed to play some part in this.

So if your heritage is in doubt, you may be the descendant that can claim the treasure in the mansion. Many people, claiming to be descendants have died trying… or at least never returned.

The terms of the Will say you get to keep any treasure you get to the lawn, but of course you must also get off the premises alive. Because the house is haunted it must be destroyed, and nobody would be crazy enough to try and recover the rest of the treasure. If you do get out, the government has agreed to buy the land and destroy the house.

You start at a bus stop, hop in, and end up outside the house mentioned above. A bit of wandering leads to a button with a speaker. Pressing the button enough times leads to … a Monty Python skit reference?

‘Alright, I’ll let you in if you answer three questions.’
‘First, what is your name?’
*Odysseus

‘Second, what is your quest?’
*Chez Moose

‘I always wanted to do that. I hope you don’t go insane trying.’

‘What was the first production system with more than 1500 productions?’

There’s supposedly multiple trivia questions, but this is the one I keep getting. I have no idea how to answer it. Any takers? I tried various movie studios but no dice. Getting the answer wrong sends me back to the bus stop.

Posted July 25, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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