The Count (1979)   8 comments

I could go back to Warp some more, but I’m rather exhausted of gathering treasures. The next Scott Adams game off my list has a reputation for being experimental and not just a treasure grab, so I decided to go for it next.

trs80

Despite the “what are you doing here” setup from the cover this does not seem to be amnesia.

count1

Rather, this is a case where the in-game character has knowledge that the player doesn’t, and part of the gameplay is simply deciphering what’s going on. It’s quickly established The Count means the vampire Dracula.

count2

(Footnote.)

The objective is (probably?) to destroy him

count3

but if that’s the case, why are we sleeping at the castle? And how does that match with the cover which indicates this might be a love story of some sort? Perhaps the main character intended to destroy Dracula but fell enamored instead? If so, is this voluntary or involuntary? If involuntary, why did we get “tucked in” apparently by Dracula without any physical damage?

Also experimental: the main map is tiny even for a Scott Adams game

countmap1

and it seems like the main notion is that time advances to sunset, at which point you get sleepy and awake in bed. Day Two below:

count4

Is the neck bite necessary to the story, or am I supposed to prepare Day One so it doesn’t happen?

It’s highly disconcerting to play a game without even knowing the player character’s motive (or if there was an original motive that changed). It’s a dream where you are dropped as an actor in a play and everyone else expects you know the lines but you have no idea what’s going on.

The only thing resembling a “puzzle” is there is a room visible underneath the window of the opening room, and it appears like the game wants you to get there somehow. Still, the whole thing is refreshingly odd and I might just spend some time mapping out if any changes happen when time passes. I’m suspecting an Infocom-mystery-game setup where certain things only happen at certain times and it’d be useful to get a map of the schedule.

Footnote: This is a bit of a side rant but I have to say — what’s up with the spelling and capitalization of Scott Adams games? “ADVEWNTURE?” This isn’t even version 1 I’m playing; nobody ever noticed the extra w? And why does “afternoon” have the spelling “AFternoon”? More than once in the game? And why does that sort of odd capitalization happen in multiple games? Is there some genuine technical reason? It’s been driving me bananas in every Scott Adams game. Also, tip for future players: the way to get out of bed is GET UP. Not STAND, UP, OUT, GET OUT, EXIT, or a dozen other variants that would seem to work. I spent about 40 turns at the start of this game just trying to do basic movement. It’s the first time in a while I hit a genuine guess-the-verb puzzle that took me more than one extra turn to resolve. My journey through the 1970s in general has hit much less guessing of the verb than the reputation of old text adventures suggests.

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Posted July 30, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “The Count (1979)

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  1. Scott Adams may be the only writer in history who uses more exclamation points than periods.

    Common words are tokenized for compression purposes. Thus if they’re misspelled once, they’re misspelled everywhere. As for why… I just don’t think he much cared.

  2. “Is the neck bite necessary to the story, or am I supposed to prepare Day One so it doesn’t happen?”

    You’ve just summed up my frustration with this sort of game. I’m actually ok with old-school games, of the Infocom variety, which were much, much fairer. Stuff like this, where you don’t even know if what’s happened is bad-and-avoidable or plot-relevant… I tend to quit at this point, nowadays.

  3. LTRFTC: Your play-through of this game has inspired me to go back and resume playing it. I would like to say, however, that the dumb waiter involves an aggravating “guess the verb” moment. There’s some other command that’s hard to figure out, but since you seemed to figure out how to phrase everything in Voodoo Castle, maybe you’ll be able to figure both out on your own. And, hey, Jimmy! I can see you frequent this blog too!

    Alexander Freeman
  4. About the weird inappropriate capitalization in the game — I don’t actually know firsthand the reason, but I suspect that it has to do with the fact that the TRS-80 Model I had no lowercase letters. In their place in the ASCII character set were just a duplicate copy of the uppercase letters. A few hardware manufacturers sold add-on kits that would provide lowercase letters (though the letters with descenders typically looked terrible), but Radio Shack never supplied such hardware themselves. Instead, they added native lowercase letters in the TRS-80 Model III — which came out in 1980, well after the first Scott Adams adventures. Of course, a programmer on a Model I computer could put lowercase ASCII characters in their source code, even though they would still appear in uppercase. So my suspicion is that Scott Adams altered the strings in his program to support lowercase mods without being able to visually inspect the result himself, and didn’t become aware of the errors until well after the programs had been released.

    As for the spelling errors, I think you just need to look at your own timeline page. Six unique adventures released over a period of two years. I don’t know when Adventure International got big enough to employ testers (or indeed employees of any kind), but I suspect that it wasn’t their first priority. If childhood memory serves, I think you’ll find the weird capitalization and spelling errors disappear in the next year’s releases.

    • re: Model 1 lowercase — That sounds quite plausible. I knew there had to be something to it. I’m honestly not so worried about the spelling, which I could see slipping by, but having wacky lowercase letters on the *opening screen* is something even the most lax of game writers would be apt to catch.

  5. Scott Adams is basically the origin of the guess-the-verb reputation of this period — remember, his games sold well and were generally cheaper than the competition, so they were *widely* played. Having played a bunch of these games in the early 1980s, everyone else was better, but more people were exposed to his stuff.

    Nathanael Nerode

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