Archive for September 2017

IFComp 2017: On the Eve of Many Many (Many) Entries to Play   2 comments

I wrote about IFComp in my last post. One popular game amongst followers of the IFComp is the “how many entries will it have this year” game.

It’s definitely more than 60 this year, which would make it the largest ever, as this blog post indicates:

When we wrote up the prize chart, we estimated there would be 60 entries. The actual number isn’t final yet — wait until Sunday! — but it’s safe to say that it’s higher than 60.

However, given last year had 58 entries (technically 60 at the start, 2 were disqualified), there are strong hints from this tweet (and elsewhere) the number may be much higher:

In the early days of IFComp, most people played every game and then posted their reviews on the rec.games.int-fiction newsgroup. Then came the year 2000, which saw a jump from 37 entries to 53, and reviewing everything got a lot harder. A fair number of people still did it, although the standard for most people what constituted a review was relatively short. (Paul O’Brian being a notable exception.)

In a way, the act of completion helps finish the the playing and reviewing in the first place. For the last 10 or so of my reviews from 2015 (53 entries) I started to feel the pain, but there were only! 10! more! and then only! 9! more! and etc.

Supposing the number is at, say, 100, the completionist approach just doesn’t work any more. What’s the best approach, then?

1. Randomize the list of games, pick the top 15 (or some other small fixed number) and stop. No rush, no pressure.

2. Randomize the list of games, start from the top, and keep going until time runs out. This is what I did last year and is still no pressure for a certain mentality.

3. Play everything, but only pick a couple highlights to write about. (This is typically what I see in the larger itch.io gamejams.)

4. Play everything, but make very short comments on each rather than longish paragraphs or essays.

5. Play what looks good from browsing the blurbs, and only review those games.

6. Team up with one or more people to split up the list (that idea was brought up here).

7. Stock up on high-energy drinks and skip sleeping for two months.

Any comments / suggestions / votes on what you think I should do?

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Posted September 30, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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IFComp 2017: From the Starting Line   6 comments

Long-time followers will note that I have reviewed multiple years of the Interactive Fiction Competition:

IFComp 2016 reviews (only 10 of them)

IFComp 2015 reviews (all entries)

IFComp 2014 reviews (all entries)

IFComp 2007 reviews (all entries)

Last year’s winner was Detectiveland by Robin Johnson.

Q: What is IFComp?

The Interactive Fiction Competition is a yearly event held since 1995 for short interactive fiction works (generally, 2 hours of playing time or less; there’s no strict rule about this, but the judges are supposed to make their rating after 2 hours). Authors can enter as many as three works. There is no entry fee.

The works are released on October 1st, and judges (anyone interested who isn’t a participant) have until November 15th to vote on them using a scale from 1 to 10. Judges must rate at least five entries for their votes to count.

Q: Is this a text adventure only thing?

It started with text adventures, but there’s no requirement, and in recent years only a little less than half of the entries had a “parser” of some sort.

Q: Are you going to write reviews again?

Some. I doubt I’ll ever have another year where I can review every entry. The numbers haven’t come out for this year yet, but there likely will be over 50 of them. I aim to review more than 10 this time.

Q: Will All the Adventures be on hold during the competition?

I’ve got something that might make a surprise appearance near the middle. IFComp will likely eat most of my writing energy, though.

Q: I’m an author! Could I ask you more about a review you wrote?

A: You can find my contact info on the About tab.

Q: I’m excited! What should I do while I wait?

This has absolutely nothing to do with IFComp, but enjoy this reading by Sam Kabo Ashwell of Sherwin Tjia’s Pick a Plot Book 2: You Are a Cat in the Zombie Apocalypse!

In all seriousness, feel free to comment to this post if you want; I’ve heard very little discussion coming up to IFComp this year, and I’m frankly wondering where everyone went. If you’re going to be a judge, what do you predict you’ll see this year? If you’re an author, post if you’re nervous, and I will find a funny cat video for you.

Posted September 28, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Odyssey #1, Damsel in Distress (1980)   5 comments

Back in the 1979s when I was writing about Joel Mick’s Burial Ground Adventure I found a scroll in the game:

BUY JOEL MICK’S NEXT ADVENTURE – DAMSEL IN DISTRESS – AVAILABLE SOON

The “next adventure” was part of a trilogy. Unfortunately, the game (and the other two) was nowhere to be found on any of the usual TRS-80 archives. (There was a number after the message above to call — it’s possible it was only available at the time by direct mail.) After my blog post here, I received a helpful email from a “John Doe” who happened to have snagged copies from a now-defunct website, and uploaded them to if-archive on my suggestion. They should now (hopefully!) be available forever.

I just wanted to point out how much of a near miss this was: the original files themselves were copied by a “David J. Cooper” off a mysterious disk titled “DD Games 20” in 2009, which was thankfully still intact. Then, John Doe had to have saved copies when the archive they were on went under, and then he had to care enough to want to pass them on.

In any case: Odyssey #1, Damsel in Distress is credited to Joel Mick and Jeffrey M. Richter, while the other two games (Treasure Island and Journey Through Time) have James Taranto as a co-author instead. I don’t know the story there; perhaps they helped with the coding, because while Burial Ground Adventure was in BASIC, the Odyssey trilogy is in native machine code.

Damsel in Distress opens quite strangely: you’re in a tavern with a sword and bottle, and a royal messenger walks in.

I assumed this was a “you are approached by a stranger with a quest” type setup, but nothing happens: the royal messenger just sits there. Any attempt to >TALK or otherwise communicate failed. I had to >KILL MESSENGER to get something to happen, upon which I found a scroll.

So…. I guess killing the messenger was ok? The lack of communication verbs structurally suggested the direction the plot needed to move (a bit like how Quondam lacked the verb UNLOCK suggesting a key was of a certain type). This is sort of a “motivation media res”; it’s fairly clear the character had some idea of what was going on enough to randomly murder someone, and the player catches up along the way.

A rescue mission! Not a terribly complicated one, as it turns out, although there was one early puzzle that stumped me enough I had to stop playing for a while. While away from playing, a solution occured to me; back at the computer, I tried to implement it and it worked. (If you want to avoid spoiling the puzzle for some reason, avert your eyes from the next screenshot.)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a solve off the computer. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about adventure games, but the early-era ones often rely on in-game experimentation in a way that just stopping and thinking isn’t quite enough to solve a tricky puzzle.

After the curious opening (which I won’t say is good or bad, but it made me think) and the actually-decent puzzle, I am sad to say the rest of the game was perfectly ordinary. There’s a castle you explore; down below there is a dungeon with a prisoner.

The prisoner informs you of a secret passage (but you don’t get to rescue them, sorry prisoner!) and in the secret passage you find the titular damsel which you can carry out of the castle. There is no opposition from guards when leaving; in fact, other than those two people there’s nobody in the castle at all. The only danger comes from setting down the damsel too early:

Fortunately you have a shack in the woods where you can find safety (?!) and win the game.

OK, fair, this wasn’t great. But: it’s easy to take for granted I’m able to get to these games, but often it’s luck they’re available at all. I don’t think my time spent was valueless; the startling opening in particular is of theoretical value, and no matter the quality the game is a piece of history.

I want to thank all of the archivists and obsessive collectors who make my writing possible.

Posted September 27, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Misadventure, Star Cruiser, Jailbreak (1980)   Leave a comment

In the era of adventure games we’ve seen, they’ve been in one of three categories:

1.) Commercial releases, on disk or tape.

2.) Source code printed in magazines (“type-ins”).

3.) On large mainframes, meant to be played by those who could access the games, but were not released in a method accessible to the general public.

Quite often these meshed together, with a mainframe release being pared down and sold on home systems, or games released both in source code and tape format. There’s a fourth category that hasn’t come up yet.

4.) Private games, meant to be played by a small audience (possibly just friends and family, possibly just the author themselves), without distribution.

And even if we don’t or can’t do this all the time, writing some games for friends helps – well, at least, it helps me – resolve some of the false market-vs-art dichotomy. The things that we make don’t have to be only for ourselves or only for someone else: they can be both. They can be honest and still accommodate someone else’s truth.

Emily Short, “Private Games”

Games in category #4 tends not be studied or written about for the obvious reason that by definition the public (and historians) don’t have access. While there is a wealth of diaries and letters from the past (the non-interactive equivalent of private games) the ephemeral nature of digital media means most private games are destined for oblivion.

The only catch might be if someone wrote a private body of work, but decided 30 years later to dig it out and let the Internet have a go. In other words, they might be Roger M. Wilcox and his collection of 21 adventure games, written between 1980 and 1983.

He considers his seventh adventure (The Vial of Doom) to be his first “good” adventure game. His early works give more of a feel of just noodling around and learning how to design. They’re also fairly short, so I’ve packaged together Adventures #1 through #3 in this post.

Misadventure

The scientists of your time have developed a time machine, with which to travel any place on Earth, at any time. However, they have not perfected a way to get you back, unless you are above ground. They have you aimed for a small underground cavern, and have armed you with a light source. Your mission is to find as much medieval material as possible (they have the time machine set for 1223 A.D.), and probably bring back your own treasure as well.

To move about, use the directions NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST (N, S, E, and W will suffice) and/or GO. To pick up something, say GET, TAKE, or .; to put it down say DROP, PUT, or P.

The transporting time machine is ready, you enter, and disappear!

You are in a damp, dusty 3-way intersection.
Passages lead: North South East

Grab stuff, bust past simple obstacles, survive. It took me roughly 10 minutes to finish. There’s insect repellent in one room guarded by a dwarf (more on him in a second). There’s a spider that you can drive away with the repellent; it was guarding a “snake-bite kit”. There’s a snake you can drive away with the kit. Then there’s a giant you can shoot with a phaser (?).

This is from the author’s port for 32-bit Windows. The original TRS-80 files are only available for some of the games.

The dwarf, in addition to being codged off Adventure, has an awkward issue with the random number generator.

You’re in the “small room.”
There is a threatening little dwarf in the room with you!
There is some insect repellent spray here.
Passages lead: South East West

The dwarf takes a swing at you!
The blow missed you completely!

Here’s the problem: there’s a strong chance upon just entering the room the dwarf will (randomly) hit and kill you. There’s armor in another room that slightly reduces the possibility (the dwarf will sometimes hit the armor) but essentially this is a situation where death can come by random chance in a way the player has literally no control over.

I rebooted the game about 6 times until I made it through the dwarf. If anything in this game felt like a rookie mistake, this was it.

There is one “actual” puzzle to the game:

This room is called “magic central.”
Written randomly about it are the letters “X”, “Q”, and “Y”.

>XQY
Nothing happens. Don’t forget, the letters may not necessarily belong in the order they appeared.

>XYQ
Nothing happens

>QYX
I don’t know how to “QYX” something.

It essentially gives away its only puzzle-aspect right away, it’s still good to note, since any sort of threads of authorship may mutate and reappear in later work.

In fact, there’s a similar start to the next game …

Star Cruiser

… where ZLP is the magic word to get things started.

This is pretty much the same structure as Misadventure: single items spread out and used to defeat enemies either violently or by scaring them off. It’s only slightly trickier than Adventure #1; I was stalled by a “prismatic square” which reflected my phaser fire. (There’s a silver ball you throw at it: “The ball dents the prismatic square out of existence!”)

There’s an alien that starts shoot right as you enter, just like Misadventure, and can randomly kill you with no recourse. Immediately after there are three buttons:

>1
You’ve started the self-destruct countdown at 20 seconds!!
>2
Self-destruct sequence terminated.
>3
You are now the commander of the star cruiser. Suddenly, Federation H.Q. appears on the screen, and tells you that this is the “Enterprise”, and that you must stop the Klingons. To continue, play “Another Star-Trek Game”.

The Star-Trek game is not an adventure game, and seems to be another branch off of Mike Mayfield’s 1971 game. It wasn’t written until 1981 so I assume either this message was added in a later revision or the author already had plans to make it.

Jailbreak

No intro here: you’re in jail, struggling to get a parser to do something. >KILL GUARD yields “Be more specific as to how.” and led me to a sad / amusing list of ways to kill a videogame NPC, none which were successful. I had to check the source code.

>THROW VOICE
The guard, hearing the sound, runs to the north.
In doing so, he drops his keys.

Young Mr. Wilcox seems to have fallen into the same “puzzles are too easy or too hard” trap of many other adventure authors.

Later, >SEARCH (just the word, by itself) is necessary to find a secret passage, and a loaded revolver. You can then blast the next security guard you see. (“The guard, unprepared for the attack, dies.”)

Then you find a disguise and badge, and manage to sneak by the world’s most unalert warden. This gets you outside where someone is selling shovels. Buying the shovel (with some cash that just happened to be lying around) and digging in an open field yields some “Evidence”.

Then you can go in the courthouse, which is right next to the prison, and win:

The (now much older) author does have self-awareness of the absurdity. This is from the source code:

// Never mind the prison guard you had to kill in cold blood to get to this point,
// or the judicial procedures required to overturn a felony conviction when new
// evidence is uncovered….
adventure_over();

In the first game you shoot a giant, in the second an alien, and the third a security guard. All are treated equally.

Posted September 25, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Quondam: Finished!   41 comments

The endgames to computer RPGs inherently have what I call the “item creep” problem: the player has amassed so many skills and items that it becomes hard to balance things and keep the game challenging. Adventure game endgames also sometimes have trouble keeping up difficulty, but in the opposite direction: as items get used up, there are less and less of them that are possible solutions to a puzzle.

While some of Quondam’s puzzles start to succumb to the “try every inventory item” method near the end, there are still a couple of truly evil ones.

Puzzle #1: The Striped Pole

I left off last time in a forest glade:

>NW
You are standing in a forest glade, full of trees except for a road south. There is a small cave nearby, boarded up, with a sign saying ‘Emergency only’.
There is a red and white striped pole standing vertically here.

>U
You are perched on a pole (and look VERY silly)!

Before how I explain how this one is solved, I need to mention another item, a “strange lamp”:

>ON
What do you want to switch on?
>LAMP
The lamp gives one large flash.
You’re blinded fatally.

I tend to make an object list as I play to help solve puzzles, but I had left one off. I had a blind spot (ahem) based on a false assumption. I assumed that this portion of the game was just a gag:

>SAVE
A legal gentleman appears, saying ‘We do not like your use of ‘save’. There are few places we cannot reach, so please avoid trouble.’ He vanishes in a cloud of smoke.

>SAVE
The legal gentleman returns with two persons who are definitely NOT gentlemen, who beat you up. You knock the dark glasses off one but you are near death when they leave.
A pair of dark glasses lies here.
You are in agony.

Even though this normally kills you, you actually need to go through with this scene because you need the dark glasses to avoid getting blinded by the flash.

It turns out the glade is the only place you can suffer the beating and survive:

>GET GLASSES
OK
Just as you are dying, a man in a white coat runs out of the cave, pulls you inside and cures you.
You are in a dingy shop belonging to the local apothecary, barber and mortician, judging from the certificates plastered on the wall. There are racks which once held sunglasses, empty herb bottles, and coloured postcards over the cracks in the wall.
A wheezing apothecary wants payment.
A small white capsule lies here.

One extra bizarre aspect: in trying to solve this I was googling red-and-white striped poles in the UK because I assumed there was some extra meaning to them, like with the British Rail sandwich. However, due to all the modern elements, I was looking for 1980s-ish interpretations. I never thought “doctor” which would be appropriate for a medieval version of the same symbol. This wasn’t exactly a “continuity error”, but this felt to me like the bird from my last post being near and far at the same time — being rescued from a beating by the Mafia from a medieval doctor requires a bit of chronological confusion.

Puzzle #2: The Cards

The most truly frustrating item in the game might be some “decorative cards”. >PLAY CARDS in a random location will cause them to just disappear when they hit the floor. Later you find a green felt table, and playing the cards causes this to happen:

>PLAY CARDS
A sorceror appears, snatches the cards off the table, says ‘..even cheats at solitaire..’ and vanishes.

I definitely needed hints here; I might be bold enough to say 99% of the players needed hints here.

>SHUFFLE CARDS
OK

>SHUFFLE CARDS
OK

>PLAY CARDS
You deal four cards and see that they are the 3 of spades, the 5 of hearts, the 4 of diamonds and the 2 of clubs before they all disappear!

This puzzle might be remotely fair if it was a “new” deck of cards, since new decks of cards tend to be unshuffled. There was other no reason at all to assume the above actions were necessary (you do need to shuffle twice; shuffling once will cause the same sorceror scene to happen).

Puzzle #3: The Horse

This puzzle exemplifies more than anywhere how the game abuses the notion of being your “eyes and ears”.

After getting below the Kitchen from last time (not too hard, once I had the repaired sword) …

You are in the kitchen of Beelzebub’s restaurant, full of imps preparing revolting food. The smell of sulfur and roast flesh catch at your throat.
A roast ox is turning on a spit.
A goblin is coming, the light gleaming off its many eyes and claws!
A ring is set in the floor.

… I came across a scene with a demon, followed by another with a troll. Solving for the troll left me in this position:

You are in a room covered in carvings. There is a large hole in the roof far above you and an exit south.
A stone troll stands here.

I was completely stuck here, and it turned out I needed to use this item:

There is a small silver figurine of a horse here, with a square hole in one side!

I assumed later I would encounter something “squarish” that would fit. But no: it was an item I already had for most of the game, a small key:

>WIND HORSE
You place the key in the horse’s side and wind. The horse grows and you drop it, as it turns into a living winged stallion!
The horse stares at the troll, fascinated.

Allow me to chronicle the unfair:

1. The small key is described as just that. There is no implication it is a “winding key” or has a square end. I think the game must have thought a “hint” was the fact “unlock” isn’t even a word in the game.

2. Speaking of verbs, “insert key” or the like doesn’t work. The only way to operate the horse figurine is with the verb WIND.

3. The horse-winding works anywhere, but usually results in “The horse seems unafraid and flies off.” There’s no particular reason to think that a stone troll would cause the horse to be more afraid than anything else. (This one isn’t as bad as points #1 and #2, since at this point the number of items that haven’t been used yet is pretty low.)

Puzzle #4: The Snake

This one was right at the end.

You seem to have ended up on Death Row. An iron maiden stands to one side, and gas hisses through vents. The roof seems to be getting lower!
There is a large electric chair here.
A mighty serpent lunges for you, its jaws agape!

>THROW FLUTE
The serpent eats the flute with no difficulty.
A mighty serpent lunges for you, its jaws agape!

This is after hitting the “I’ve used every item, haven’t I?” limit. The solution turned out to be very clever, enough so that I’m not going to spoil it here (if you’ve been following my posts, you should be able to solve it in the comments).

Ending Thoughts

>ON
What do you want to switch on?
>CHAIR
Your body (which was getting pretty battered, let’s face it) dies but your spirit is passed into a fine new body. You appear in an office full of mountain photos. A gnome demands the number of your bank account.

(This comes from the card puzzle I mentioned earlier.)

>5442
The gnome gives you your interest and returns your treasure.
You have scored 250 out of 250.
I’ve run out of problems. That means you’ve won (curse).. I mean well done!
That’s the end!
Would you like another game?

Let me record some hyperbole for posterity, then make some clarifications:

Quondam is the most difficult adventure game ever made.

I can think of certain adventures that rely enough on moon logic that random usage of objects is the only way through. This is harder than that! There are no near misses. If you don’t think to “WIND HORSE” or “SHUFFLE CARDS” you’re not going to get anywhere. This is in addition to the leaps required to utilize the save game feature as a puzzle solving method, or work out the “bank” puns, or handle the fact the game actively aims to describe items in a deceptive way.

Having said that, I’m sure there are some truly broken and terrible games that are harder to get through, but there’s a difference between broken and hard.

Should you try to play this? Well, I didn’t spoil all the puzzles, so you’re still up for an uphill climb if you’re up for it. I suppose it’s worth it for a glimpse into early 80s sadism that’s heavy enough I can make a claim like the one above with a straight face.

Posted September 23, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Quondam: Irreversible Damage   5 comments

Since last time, I had managed to apply the mysterious message in a sandwich (see details in the comments) to break into a demonic restraurant:

You are in the kitchen of Beelzebub’s restaurant, full of imps preparing revolting food. The smell of sulfur and roast flesh catch at your throat.
A roast ox is turning on a spit.
A goblin is coming, the light gleaming off its many eyes and claws!
A ring is set in the floor.

Unfortunately, I spent many fruitless hours afterwards with no progress at all, and I decided it was time to break open the hints. In the commercial version, they were provided with the game itself as an envelope meant to be broken open in time of emergency.

It’s time.

Immediately I found my “stopping point” puzzle; it was Yet Another Visualization Problem, but I don’t blame myself here because the text suggests contradictory things.

>NE
You are lost in a trackless forest.
A little bird sings nearby.

>GET BIRD
You grab the bird, but it expires and you drop its remains.

Being able to grab the bird suggests that is literally “nearby” enough that one can reach out and grab it, not that it is perched a few trees over or anything like that. Consequently, it never occurred to me I could do this:

>FOLLOW BIRD
You struggle through briars you thought impassable to get to the bird which then flies to another branch.

>FOLLOW BIRD
You struggle through briars you thought impassable to get to the bird which then flies to another branch.

>FOLLOW BIRD
The bird finally flutters off.
You are on the shore of a wild sea surrounded by forest. There is a misty isle out to sea, which seems to move as you watch it.
An antique brooch lies here!

Compare: the bird is close by and far away at the same time. It’s like the adventure game version of a continuity mistake in a movie.

I’m going to be somewhat forgiving because solving this puzzle is followed by a section which I found breathtaking, enough so that I’m going to give a spoiler warning — this is likely the best part of the game.

Let’s pause with another horror vacui picture. This is the Sarcofago Grande Ludovisi.

I fortunately had my broken blade and my hilt with me (from the “reject sword” gag):

>PLAY HARP
You strum – what else – ‘The minstrel boy’.
The waters carry you off to a strange isle in an eternal twilight. You lose track of time watching its helpful craftsmen.
They mend the sword for you.
You are on the strange timeless isle.

Escape required my “half of a ticket marked ‘Faery'”. Quick question here: is half a ticket normal for transport that uses tickets? Is this some sort of reference? Is it something like “one way is half the ticket, going back again is the other half”?

>WAVE TICKET
A swarm of creatures take the ticket.
There is a Ching! and they carry you back to the beach which has changed subtly. You feel weak, your hands wrinkle and your hair turns white. You have been long on the isle and are paying back the time!
You’re on the shore.

It occurred to me briefly that this was permanent — that you were meant to play the rest of the game as a very aged person — but this always happened on the next turn:

>W
You decay to bones.
Your life is over.

However, you may remember I had an elixir which seemed to be a “shrinking potion”. Not really; that was just a side effect of the true nature:

>DRINK ELIXIR
You drink the elixir. Its youth spell balances your ageing and your health returns.

Aha! The “shrinking” was getting younger, and “vanishing” was simply due to going into negative years.

However, this didn’t turn back the flow of time. This is permanent time travel, on the order of something like 100 years.

Consequently, all parts of the map visited so far changed. The spider web with many small spiders turns into having three large spiders (which you can evade to grab some bones in the center of the web). The knight that has been blocking your way is … still blocking your way.

You’re on a path between two banks. An aged knight in gleaming armour is ready to contest the way.

Think about all the obstacles in generic fantasy worlds you’ve seen, where something / someone is guarding a single room. When you leave, do they still guard that room? Even after 100 years?

>THROW WATER
You slosh the water at the knight, whose armour immediately goes rusty! His movements get slower.

>NW
The rusty armour slows the knight and you slip past him.
You are in a forest clearing.
There is a large climbable tree here.
An elderly dragon puffs smoke rings here.

The “large climbable tree” was previously a “sapling” planted before the magical isle visit occurred.

Note that if you’ve had items lying around, they’ve all disappeared. The way to protect them is to “deposit” them in a bank. There happens to be a bank right where the knight is “You’re on a path between two banks.” (Beware of puns!)

>DEPOSIT KEY
The key is now in your account.

You can get them back again in a “branch office” of the bank in a branch of the tree. (Groan.)

The branch office mentions interest, which suggests if I deposit a treasure before the time travel it might yield some more riches. The only treasure I have to deposit is a “platinum medal” which I can only get I’ve already bribed the knight (meaning I can’t return to the knight’s location until later), so I’m not sure how I would make a deposit yet.

Anyway, as usual, still stuck. The aged dragon is fortunately now easy to get by, but I don’t know what to do in the part beyond:

>NW
You are standing in a forest glade, full of trees except for a road south. There is a small cave nearby, boarded up, with a sign saying ‘Emergency only’.
There is a red and white striped pole standing vertically here.

>U
You are perched on a pole (and look VERY silly)!

Let me backtrack to my moment of thinking the unnatural aging was irreversible damage. That’s not a common thing in any game of any genre. In general, games seem to be deeply uncomfortable with permanent consequences that affect the physical aspects of the main character(s). Choices can have major plot effects and change the actions of other characters, sure, but with the exception of certain roguelikes (like UnReal World and Darkest Dungeon) every injury seems to have a cure potion around the next corner. Characters might be killed off, but never disabled. This is curious when you consider the amount of danger and trauma a typical video game character goes through.

Posted September 22, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Quondam: Three Objects   17 comments

I have only made small bits of progress, finding new uses for items.

Jim at the Sandwich Tribunal found instructions and recreated all the British Rail sandwiches. The sandwich depicted is marmite. A test eater (one of his children) described the taste as “fermented bouillon cube”.

Object #1: The British Rail Sandwich

I know, I thought I was done with this one too. Just as a reminder, the sandwich gave me strength, but also nausea and death, until I did:

>OPEN SANDWICH
You tear the transparent wrapper off the sandwich.

It turns out that the sandwich hasn’t yielded all its secrets, yet:

>OPEN SANDWICH
You find a note, reading: I am a captive food taster for B.R. Help me by saying the password near the restaurant and I will help you.

There’s a place where a “password” might work:

You are in a room with an obvious exit east and a sign dangling from the roof reading ‘K.TC..N’ and pointing north.

I haven’t had any luck with any words I’ve tested so far, though.


Object #2: The Mirror

Holding the mirror too long is dangerous:

You see yourself in the mirror and, not looking, fall down a hole.
You’ve passed away.

I had come up with a convoluted way of transporting the mirror via rucksack. The issue had a simpler fix:

>TURN MIRROR
OK

Now the item description (when seen in a room) is

A small face down mirror lies here.

and the mirror is perfectly harmless.


Object #3: The Harp

There is a harp made from rare woods here!

A perfectly natural attempt at PLAY HARP led to

You make an awful jangle.

Which in many games is just a signal that “your character can’t play this musical instruments, cut it out”. But no:

>TUNE HARP
OK

>PLAY HARP
You strum – what else – ‘The minstrel boy’.

If I play the harp now for the dragon, the dragon is “pleased”, but still eats me if I try to walk by. I’ll have to experiment some more.

Posted September 19, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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