Adventure (350 points): Puzzles and concluding remarks   8 comments

Huzzah! and so forth:

YOU MARCH THROUGH THE HOLE AND FIND YOURSELF IN THE MAIN OFFICE, WHERE A CHEERING BAND OF FRIENDLY ELVES CARRY THE CONQUERING ADVENTURER OFF INTO THE SUNSET.

It was easier to finish than I expected. I’m not sure if I’m better at these things now or if my success is attributable to vague half-memories of how puzzles worked. In any case, it was a pleasant enough experience which still holds up as a game. There’s shadows of emergent behavior (as I discussed with the maze), a strong sense of environment (given many of the rooms are based on the real Colossal Cave, see this article for pictures) and the impression of a rational system beneath the workings of the puzzles (I discuss what I mean by this below).

WARNING: The rest of this post gives spoilers on various puzzles.

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I did use the dynamic hints twice — once in the Dark Room and once at Witt’s End (a puzzle I had solved by luck, but I wanted to know how it worked).

Just to clarify how dynamic hints work, in the case of Witt’s End you end up in a maze with this map:

After wandering in circles for enough turns, there’s this message:

YOU HAVE CRAWLED AROUND IN SOME LITTLE HOLES AND WOUND UP BACK IN THE
MAIN PASSAGE.

YOU’RE AT WITT’S END.

DO YOU NEED HELP GETTING OUT OF HERE?

yes

I AM PREPARED TO GIVE YOU A HINT, BUT IT WILL COST YOU 3 POINTS.

DO YOU WANT THE HINT?

yes

DON’T GO WEST.

That is, keep going in any direction except west you like until by random chance (I can’t be certain without looking at the source, but I think it’s 1 in 50) you exit the room.

This is strikingly unfair, except that the place is purely optional except for the Last Lousy Point. Just outside the room is a magazine addressed to Witt, so dropping it at Witt’s End will get a single point and push the final score from 349 to 350 out of 350.

Perhaps I still ought to be somewhat upset, but given in context Adventure was tackled on mainframes as nearly a group game I can understand having one too-hard-to-get point to force the group to band together (like a difficult alternate reality game puzzle). Quoting from Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine:

That isn’t the worst maze, however. You can get caught in Witts End and think that you’ll never get out. Some of the engineers at Westborough who had come close to mastering the entire game believed that the only way out of Witts End was to tell the computer you wanted to commit suicide — AXE ME. That worksl you get reincarnated shortly afterward. But you lose points; suicide isn’t the best solution.

What I find most puzzling is that they should have at least been able to figure out the problem from the dynamic hints. Were they playing a port that had them removed?

I am somewhat less forgiving of the endgame puzzle. If you’ve been following along my posts closely (vanity, etc.) you may remember from Crowther’s original this odd message in the source:

blast
BLASTING REQUIRES DYNAMITE.

Woods must have noticed the verb and decided to run it as a puzzle. The endgame section is divided into two rooms with the premise that it’s a stockpile for the various items from the adventure:

YOU ARE AT THE SOUTHWEST END OF THE REPOSITORY. TO ONE SIDE IS A PIT FULL OF FIERCE GREEN SNAKES. ON THE OTHER SIDE IS A ROW OF SMALL WICKER CAGES, EACH OF WHICH CONTAINS A LITTLE SULKING BIRD. IN ONE CORNER IS A BUNDLE OF BLACK RODS WITH RUSTY MARKS ON THEIR ENDS. A LARGE NUMBER OF VELVET PILLOWS ARE SCATTERED ABOUT ON THE FLOOR. A VAST MIRROR STRETCHES OFF TO THE NORTHEAST. AT YOUR FEET IS A LARGE STEEL GRATE, NEXT TO WHICH IS A SIGN WHICH READS, “TREASURE VAULT. KEYS IN MAIN OFFICE.”

Notice how the black rods have rusty marks and not rusty stars. (Rods with rusty stars are in the other room.) It turns out if you pick up one of those rods and type BLAST it will explode. How one can feasibly know this without checking a walkthrough I am unsure. (I checked a walkthrough 15 years ago when I beat this thing, and remembered the solution to this puzzle because of how unfair it was.)

Just so you don’t get the wrong impression, let me discuss two puzzles I liked, although one of them might be considered an edge case on the fulcrum of good puzzle-bad puzzle.

The troll and the bear. There’s a troll guarding a bridge who wants treasure to cross.

A BURLY TROLL STANDS BY THE BRIDGE AND INSISTS YOU THROW HIM ATREASURE BEFORE YOU MAY CROSS.
THE TROLL STEPS OUT FROM BENEATH THE BRIDGE AND BLOCKS YOUR WAY.

Already there’s a bit of a dilemma since maximum points require gathering all the treasures, but it’s possible to sacrifice a treasure here for the purpose of moving the plot along and simply be content with a lower score.

However, in another portion of the cave in the Giant’s Room there are a set of golden eggs with the magic words FEE FIE FOE FOO. Taking the golden eggs elsewhere and saying the four words causes the eggs to disappear; it turns out they teleport back to the Giant’s Room. So you can give the eggs to the troll and teleport them back to your possession, still claiming all the points for the treasure. Working this out was a lovely ‘aha!’ moment: I had puzzled out the egg behavior, knew I somehow had to outwit the troll, and the connection seemed perfectly logical on contemplation. This correlates with Andrew Plotkin’s own experience with the puzzle as a child:

Not too many days later, I solved a puzzle that he described. (How to get past the troll bridge.) I saw the elements, I saw how they could interact, and the answer was obvious. He tried it the next day, and it worked. That was it, for me. I knew this game was doing it right.

After the troll there’s an area with a bear and puzzle that was satisfying (for me) for reasons other than difficulty. Feeding the bear tamed at and you could TAKE BEAR and have it follow you; this came to me fairly immediately. The satisfying part for me was not the taming of the bear but the final result of taking the bear back to the troll:

THE BEAR LUMBERS TOWARD THE TROLL, WHO LETS OUT A STARTLED SHRIEK AND SCURRIES AWAY. THE BEAR SOON GIVES UP THE PURSUIT AND WANDERS BACK.

This brought me a glow of karmic contentment.

The Dark Room. I had a good experience with this puzzle, and it makes for a striking early example of “training” a player in a system.

Deep in the cave there’s a narrow passage:

SOMETHING YOU’RE CARRYING WON’T FIT THROUGH THE TUNNEL WITH YOU.
YOU’D BEST TAKE INVENTORY AND DROP SOMETHING.

In particular the lantern is too big. Going on in:

YOU’RE IN A SMALL CHAMBER LIT BY AN EERIE GREEN LIGHT. AN EXTREMELY NARROW TUNNEL EXITS TO THE WEST. A DARK CORRIDOR LEADS NE.
THERE IS AN EMERALD HERE THE SIZE OF A PLOVER’S EGG!

Going northeast:

IT IS NOW PITCH DARK. IF YOU PROCEED YOU WILL LIKELY FALL INTO A PIT.

So the problem involves getting light to the dark room. I originally thought perhaps the geography was such that one of the pits mentioned around the map connected on the way down, so throwing the lantern down there would get it to the right place. No luck.

Later I was thinking about how magic words worked. Early in the game there’s this iconic description:

YOU ARE IN A DEBRIS ROOM FILLED WITH STUFF WASHED IN FROM THE SURFACE. A LOW WIDE PASSAGE WITH COBBLES BECOMES PLUGGED WITH MUD AND DEBRIS HERE, BUT AN AWKWARD CANYON LEADS UPWARD AND WEST. A NOTE ON THE WALL SAYS “MAGIC WORD XYZZY”.

Saying XYZZY teleports the player back the building, but more importantly (and fortunately a strong temptation), saying XYZZY in the building teleports the player back to the debris room.

Later there’s a room with a marked “Y2” where a hollow voice says “PLUGH”. PLUGH in that room will also teleport back and forth to the building.

I already mentioned the FEE-FIE-FOO-FOE combination worked on the golden eggs.

Given the setup of a.) magic words used for teleporting and b.) magic words related to objects I decided “why not” and while in the room with the “emerald the size of a plover’s egg” I typed PLOVER. And lo:

YOU’RE AT “Y2”.

Typing PLOVER again teleported back.

I feel like I shouldn’t be pleased with this — it is decidedly unfair — I still appreciate that I managed the puzzle with a lateral leap of logic, and that there is a primitive sort of “training in a system” just like was recently discussed on this thread at Emily Short’s blog.

That’s all for now. Was this worthwhile reading? Should I do the same thing for other games? If you’ve played it, how does it match with your own experiences of Adventure? Let me know in the comments.

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Posted March 27, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “Adventure (350 points): Puzzles and concluding remarks

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  1. Totally worth it. I enjoyed this series very much. Thanks!

  2. This was a great series. I really enjoyed the way you worked through the game and dissected it. I’d love to see more games, modern or classic, given the same treatment.

  3. Thirded!

  4. When I wrote that about the troll bridge, I was thinking of the golden eggs, not the bear.

  5. Pingback: Zork: Stuck « Renga in Blue

  6. Yes, please continue with other games as well!

  7. Pingback: Adventure (430 points): Finished! | Renga in Blue

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