Empire of the Over-Mind: Three Novel Difficulties   3 comments

The people (all two of them) have spoken, and I’m using the earlier rather than the later version. (The TRS-80 version, because the speedup on my emulator avoids both spastic blinking cursor and dropped keyboard input issues.) I do want to be clear I’m fine with “remake” versions, as long as the gameplay is essentially intact, and especially if the original author is involved.

However, despite the organized user interface of the 1986 edition as shown above, I find myself gravitating to minimal UI: just text and a parser.

A curiousity: the development of first-person shooters went from heavy background interface to gradually letting things go until it was (is?) considered admirable to have no interface at all. Text adventures underwent the opposite, gradually adding elements until arriving at the complexity of the interface below used in the Legend games.

Is more really more when it comes to a text game, though?

. . .

In any case, Empire of the Over-Mind introduced three novelties that make playing it more difficult than usual.

1.) The placement of items is at least somewhat randomized. In the first room of the game upon multiple reboots, I have found: a waterskin, a stick, a golden leaf, or nothing at all.

2.) The game comes with a 1,592 word poem that contains information required to beat the game. The original looked like this:

Thankfully, I have an ASCII version I was able to put on my phone for better readability.

Clever Servant-Mind had this long foreseen
And protected itself. Gerald the Green,
By false promise of power corrupted,
Had natural life vilely disrupted;
And, with the magic of a leaf of gold,
To animate or dispel he did hold
Control over plant and skull long dead,
To serve as sly traps for the sphere of dread.
Then for amusement at living man’s pain,
Servant-Mind had Gerald horribly slain.

I’m not going to do an intensive evaluation right now of Mr. Bedrosian’s skill at verse (maybe later), but it isn’t bad. At the very least the poem gives enough about the rise of the Over-Mind that it feels like an actual foe with motivations rather than Generic Baddie #295.

3.) There are no compass directions in this game. You have to state you want to go down a PATH or to a CLIFF or whatnot.

This makes me feel slightly uneasy and lost. On a couple occasions I accidentally went back to a previous location because I was confused, and there are some items meant as scenery that can’t be traveled to but it isn’t obvious until you’ve tested it out.

Still, while even original Adventure let you navigate by landmarks in some cases, they were only used in special cases; dispensing with compass directions completely is very rare for the era (I believe Battlestar does it in 1980, but I haven’t reached that year yet).

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Posted June 10, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Empire of the Over-Mind: Three Novel Difficulties

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  1. I think the reason FPS (and other types of video games) went for less is because immersion is a bigger consideration for them because they much more closely mimic how we perceive the world around (after all, we SEE it) whereas text-based games don’t look even approximate how perceive the world through our senses, so immersion doesn’t seem as important. However, the more complicated interfaces still don’t look as nice in my opinion. I think it would be nice to have the room description, the inventory, and a map in their own windows, though.

    • I don’t think immersion in a text is that much different. Certaintly when I read a long text I have trouble when there are lots of bells and whistles to go with it.

      I can’t say there is a hard rule though – I did like Beyond Zork’s interface.

  2. Ooh, I’m going to be interested in your take on this game. I played it in the ’80s on a TRS-80. It took me forever to solve it, which is probably why I remember so much about it.

    I remember thinking that the “go ” formation was really neat, and since I came to this game some years after it was first published, I’d been used to compass directions. I ended up having to draw a bubble map of how the rooms connected, with no concern about compass-based directions. Eventually I used it enough that the space took on the compass directions of how I’d laid out the map.

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