Zork: Playing off and on the computer   7 comments

(Heavy spoilers ahead.)

Last time I posted about my system for handling being stuck. I’ve become less stuck; here’s how my breakthrough went down.

First there was a puzzle I already remembered from Zork II:

Riddle Room
This is a room which is bare on all sides. There is an exit down.
To the east is a great door made of stone. Above the stone, the
following words are written: ‘No man shall enter this room without
solving this riddle:

What is tall as a house,
round as a cup,
and all the king’s horses can’t draw it up?’

(Reply via ‘ANSWER “answer”‘)

I remember being stumped at the time. I realize it’s likely an easy-in-retrospect thing, but WELL now seems obvious to me.

Moving on:

Circular Room
This is a damp circular room, whose walls are made of brick and
mortar. The roof of this room is not visible, but there appear to be
some etchings on the walls. There is a passageway to the west.
There is a wooden bucket here, 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet high.
> read etchings

                        o  b  o

                        A  G  I
                         E   L

                        m  p  a

I could tell it was the bottom of a well (being prepared by the riddle) but the message stumped me, and while I could enter the bucket I couldn’t get the bucket anywhere (too large to pick up, and the rope didn’t attach). I considered anagrams: “Amiable Goop”? “Go Amoeba Lip”? I thought maybe “EL” was part of “WELL” but I couldn’t make more out of that.

At this point I reached my Stuck post. After I made the lists of objects and puzzles, I printed them out so I could study them away from the computer. My playing has been very sporadic out of work/life necessity anyway; adventure games are interesting in they are one of the few computer game genres playable outside of the computer. It’s even possible to play while sleeping (I recall a few stories of people realizing a puzzle solve from a dream).

Cue several days later: in between wrangling a small child, I glanced over at my printout, and almost mystically (or at least remembering the Frobozz Magic Goop Company from the toothpaste tube, also on my object list), I saw:

                     Fr o  b  o zz

                      M A  G  I C
                       W E   L L

                     Co m  p  a ny

Ah-ha! Somehow this insight was difficult from a computer screen, but it came easily on paper.

However, I was still stuck. Here’s how my thoughts went: Does this help me any? I want to move the well. I guess the rope was futile, it’s a magic well. Maybe magic words or some such?

I jumped back in the game, entered the well, and tried all variety of “magic” words. No luck, but as I was trying things out the thought sprung up: Well, how would a magic well work? It’d come up when there was water, right? Don’t I have water?

> put water in bucket
There is now a puddle in the bottom of the wooden bucket.
The bucket rises and comes to a stop.
Top of Well
You are at the top of the well. Well done. There are etchings on
the side of the well. There is a small crack across the floor at the
entrance to a room on the east, but it can be crossed easily.
You are in the wooden bucket.
The wooden bucket contains:
A quantity of water

Ha-HA! What made this extra satisfying came immediately after:

> read etchings

                        o  b  o
                    r             z
                 f   M  A  G  I  C   z
                 c    W  E   L  L    y
                    o             n
                        m  p  a

This was truly a nice solve: not only did I unlock a bottleneck in the map, but there was a artistic confirmation of my original insight. I’m fairly certain the second insight would _not_ have come to me off the computer, even thought it was quite possible to finish the solve based on the project list. Somehow being in the world-verse led me to the correct revelation.

I’m hoping thinking more about my stuck-unstuck process will improve my overall puzzle solving, and lead to theories to solidify what I consider “good” stuck and what I consider “bad” stuck.

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Posted April 9, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Zork: Playing off and on the computer

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  1. > go north down memory lane
    nice reflection, still remember this dungeon crawl from childhood on my c64. Those were the days!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! I just recently started playing Zork for the first time. I know its not exactly new, but I’m only 21 so to me it is! I’m finding I really like it, but it can be difficult, especially if you miss something, like the tube of toothpaste. I never found one so I would never have figured this room out. Thanks again!

  3. what was the answer to the riddle then?

    • Mentioned in the post:

      I remember being stumped at the time. I realize it’s likely an easy-in-retrospect thing, but WELL now seems obvious to me.

      I get a ton of people come by searching for the answer to this particular riddle, so I think I was right about only being easy in retrospect.

      I’d love to analyze the thought process in solving riddles sometime.

  4. how do you input the answer

  5. Pingback: Odyssey #1, Damsel in Distress (1980) | Renga in Blue

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