Archive for the ‘acheton’ Tag

Acheton: Afterlife and endgame   4 comments

achetondisks

[Image from an Ebay auction.]

I’ve discussed how Acheton has many, many, ways to die. This is not unusual in an adventure game.

What *is* unusual is that in order to get all the treasures you need to die once.

Spoilers for this and the endgame follow.

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You are in a bare room with exits off in all directions. On the ground is a heavy stone slab bearing the words ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here – ANON’.
> off
The lamp is now off.
> e
You fell into a pit and broke every bone in your body.

You appear to have died. Do you want to be reincarnated?

I first essentially interpreted this as an out-of-game question, just like a RESTORE/UNDO/QUIT menu.

> no
You are in Hades. The place is lit by the eerie glow of fire and brimstone. The souls of the dead walk with heads hung and gloomy faces, trying to perform impossible tasks. The sound of demonic laughter echoes around, sending shivers down the spine.
> e
You are in Hades.
Anne Boleyn wanders past with her head under her arm.
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[wander for a bit]
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.
> s
You are in Hades.
There is a loud clatter as a party of Hell’s Angels rides past in fiery chariots.
There is a beautiful crystal skull on the ground near you!
> get skull
OK.
> anon
You get an odd feeling of weightlessness. Suddenly, the rock above opens and you float upwards through the resulting hole. Just as you arrive at the top, the rock snaps shut again and you discover …
You are in a bare room with exits off in all directions. On the ground is a heavy stone slab bearing the words ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here – ANON’.

On the unfair-o-meter, I didn’t find this Ludicrous once I found there was a treasure in the afterlife, but I needed hints to figure out how to get out. The random Dante reference in one room did not translate in my brain to an escape via magic word. (Incidentally, DANTE works also as the magic word.) The main difficulty was discovering the whole section exists in the first place, since for the longest time I immediately restore my game upon dying.

I’ve been harping on unfair parts in Acheton, but there is a saving grace: you don’t need every treasure to win. You won’t get a full score, certainly, but “finished and filling in missing points” has a different feel than the brick wall of being stuck in the middle.

You are in a 12-foot high rock chamber. There is a massive walk-in safe on the east wall. The west wall bears an inscription, and there is a bright yellow star apparently painted in the middle of the ceiling. A spiral staircase leads downwards.
> e
You’re inside the safe.

Placing all the treasures in the safe and then closing it results in…

> close safe
As you close the safe, the ground shakes slightly and a large slab of rock detaches itself from the ceiling, just missing you as it falls, and blocks the stairs.

A deep sonorous booming voice intones slowly:

ONE …
TWO …
THREE …
FOUR …
[etc, etc]
FIFTY FOUR …
FIFTY FIVE …

WELL DONE!! YOU ARE NOW FULLY QUALIFIED TO ENTER THE MASTERS’ SECTION.

I tested all the way down to forty-five treasures and still was able to enter the endgame. Omitting ten treasures is enough to skip most of the heavily obscure sections.

Upon entering the last section, you must face the fury of…

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee… >>oof<<
You are in a high, circular room with highly polished walls which sparkle and shimmer in all colours of the rainbow. Lighted passages lead off to the north and to the south. The room itself is lit by chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
There is a large basalt disc here.
There is a very large granite disc here.

…Towers of Hanoi! (CUE ENTHUSIASM) (CRICKETS)

To be fair, you don’t have to solve the whole thing; just move enough discs around to clear a hole that you enter for the final arena.

> d
You are in the gladiators’ arena. The crowd, consisting of former
successful adventurers, hushes as you enter. Once again, you hear the
booming sonorous voice, saying:
“LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN!”

Your opponent is:
A hissing vampire with large blood-stained protruding canines.

The following weapons are available:
A huge two-handed axe.
A vial of poisonous gas.
A five foot spear.
A two-handed broadsword.
A silver-tipped cane.
A small dagger.
A wooden crucifix.
A pointed wooden stake.
A large spiked mace.
A keg of gunpowder.
Which weapon would you like?

The rest of the game involves matching the right weapon to the right creature.

Which weapon would you like?
stake

You throw the stake at the vampire. He tries to dodge but seems unable
to do so. The stake pierces his heart, and he collapses in a heap of
dust.

This could nearly be considered choice-game mode — you can’t move around or do anything other than type weapon names — but there’s one last trick.

Your opponent is:
A black knight on a black charger.

The following weapons are available:
A huge two-handed axe.
A silver-tipped cane.
A keg of gunpowder.
Which weapon would you like?
NONE

The black knight charges into the arena, his lance pointing straight at you. At the last moment you jump to one side. He attempts to swerve, and in doing so becomes unseated and breaks his neck on landing. The crowd seems uncertain whether to cheer or not.

AXE works, but this is the only way to get the last 3 points of the game.

You throw the keg of gunpowder at the dragon, which is quietly blowing smoke rings at the time. A stray spark ignites the gunpowder and blasts the dragon into little bits. The crowd rise to congratulate you, master gladiator.

You leave the arena, to the applause of the crowd, and receive your laurel wreath.

You have scored 1500 points out of a maximum of 1500. You are now a Grandmaster Supreme of Acheton, and have been elected to the Ruling Council. Please communicate with the relevant authorities to claim your seat.

Congratulations!

Do you want another game?

Before I sign out, I should point out the commercial versions (covers above) are slightly different than the mainframe version I played. Primarily, the weapons that were just there in the arena are spread out through the whole game, and have to be brought to the endgame to get a complete resolution. While collecting the weapons makes the arena at the end seem less like an arbitrary surprise, there’s so many finicky things to worry about in Acheton I’d rather do without.

Consequently I’d recommend the mainframe version (Acheton.z8 from here) for anyone that wants to give the game a try. I’d think it’s still worth trying if you don’t go for a full score so you can skip the more obnoxious parts.

I can’t say Acheton is as good as Adventure or Zork, for 3 reasons:

1.) Acheton has multiple “cruel” bits were you can unknowingly break the game and not find out until many hundreds of moves later. Zork had a few points like that but it was obvious when it happened right away. You could lose a treasure in Adventure via the bridge, but it was essentially intentional on the player’s part and an acceptable puzzle to force the player to plan a way of getting their treasure back.

2.) Without light most of Acheton is unexplorable. Acheton’s lamp timer is very tight, and there’s just no chance for “noodling around”. Adventure had a relatively generous time limit, and Zork went one better with an unlimited light source.

3.) Adventure had both the pirates and dwarves, and Zork had the highly satisfying thief (who as far as game mechanics are involved, I still contend is one of the best NPCs in IF). Acheton has this guy:

A fearsome looking stone idol glares at you malevolently with its single green eye from the opposite end of the room.
> get eye
OK.
You wrench the eye of the idol from its socket. As you do so, the idol starts to glow faintly and emits a hollow groan. It then grabs at you, but fortunately you jump back just in time. The idol then blunders around the room searching for you for a few minutes, and you have a number of narrow escapes before it appears to give up. It then sits down in the lotus position, and then gradually fades away from view.

After taking the eye, the idol has a random chance of showing up and killing you the rest of the game. Not only is this far less interesting than intermittent battles with dwarves or the thief, the best strategy is to save taking the eye as the very last treasure, nullifying having the enemy at all.

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Posted January 17, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Acheton: Solve it yourself   6 comments

Back in 1987 GAMES Magazine printed an article titled They Take the High-Tech Road to Adventure profiling the company Infocom. I remember as a child reading the article many (many) times and dreaming of working there.

Because GAMES was (technically, still is) a puzzle magazine, they felt obligated to include a bonus; specifically, a transcript from Leather Goddesses of Phobos which included enough information to solve the puzzle from the game.

This is not a puzzle genre that ever took off, but I did find a perfect moment in Acheton for an experiment. Read this transcript and figure out how to get past the large sheet of glass.

There is a turquoise amulet here!
There is a bunch of keys here.
There is a lump of lead on the floor near you.
There is a small box of matches nearby.
There is a mink coat with bulging pockets lying in a heap nearby!
There is a large glass palantir here!
There is an antique porcelain plate here with a small pile of salt
on it!
There is a small earthenware pot here, labelled “London Dry” on one side.
There are some magnificent quartz crystals on the ground here.
There is a three foot black rod with a rusty star on the end nearby.
There is a small pair of scissors here.
There is a large old-fashioned mercury thermometer here.
There is a pair of dull brass tongs here.
There is a beautifully fashioned Stradivarius violin here!
> n
You are in a spacious room which has a large sheet of glass blocking
an exit to the east. Etched into the glass are the words “Find the
right key, though no lock there be”. Passages lead to the north and
south. An icy breeze comes from the north.
> u
You are in a small chamber above the slab room. An icy draught blows
in from a passage to the north.
> n
You are in a spacious room which has a large sheet of glass blocking
an exit to the east. Etched into the glass are the words “Find the
right key, though no lock there be”. Passages lead to the north and
south. An icy breeze comes from the north.
>

Posted January 1, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Acheton: Harshness to extremes   3 comments

achetoninside

…this is a rotten hard and often unfair game. You can die easily. You can lose or destroy a necessary tool just as easily. This should not be seen as a fault, as such, in one of the earliest adventures ever written, by mathematicians for mathematicians; but Acheton is not only larger than nearly all other games, it also does take harshness to extremes at times.
— Richard Bos

I want to discuss two puzzles that are both brilliant and unfair.

Before I start, I should give the reminder that just like Adventure, the goal in Acheton is to collect all the treasures in the world. In this case, they then go in a vault.

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> xyzzy
I’m afraid that magic word hasn’t got enough power to work in this universe.

The “famous magic word” of Acheton is ZOOGE.

> sw
You are in a low damp chamber. Mist appears from nowhere, rolls and billows around the room and eventually disappears equally mysteriously. A rough note on the wall says “ZOOGE”. There are two exits at opposite ends of the room.

Unfortunately, attempting to using it generally results in “Nothing happens.” There hence must be more conditions. In Adventure the condition was simply to be in the right place but it wasn’t tough to figure out. In Acheton it takes a more lateral jump: there are rooms spread throughout the game with stars.

You are in a small chamber whose walls show chisel marks and other signs of only recently having been cut out of the solid rock. The only exit is to the southeast. Somebody has painted a large purple star on the floor!

The reason this jump isn’t too absurd is there are quite a few rooms with the stars. It’s safe to assume they’re part of an underlying magic mechanism.

> zooge
There is a mighty rush of wind, blowing you off your feet. You pick yourself up and find that you have grazed your knee and that everything you were holding has been scattered round the room.

I thought maybe this was it — perhaps a puzzle surfaces where an item can only be dropped via this mechanism — but given the number of stars, probably not.

Fortunately, there’s another room with a suggestive hint.

You are in a 12-foot high rock chamber. There is a massive walk-in safe on the east wall. The west wall bears an inscription, and there is a bright yellow star apparently painted in the middle of the ceiling. A spiral staircase leads downwards.
The safe is open.
> read inscription
The inscription reads “Black magic should be practiced in obscurity.”

Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do with this. Hints were perused. It turns out the effect only happens with the lamp off. Unfortunately, still:

> zooge
Nothing happens.

I went back to one of the other star rooms and turned off my lamp again.

> zooge
There is a loud >>SNAP<< !

Ok, now we are getting somewhere. Except … nothing happened.

It turns out that if you have treasures on the floor in a star room that’s not next to the safe AND you have the lamp off ZOOGE will teleport the treasures next to the safe.

It’s kind of plausible someone could put all these parts together, especially if they were working as a group and sharing notes (allegedly, in 1978 the “black magic should be practiced in obscurity” hint didn’t even exist). I certainly don’t begrudge experimentation puzzles entirely, because they have a unique quality which only works in an adventure game, but there’s no better word for this puzzle as other than unfair.

Which is a pity, because there’s a followup puzzle which is brilliant.

> d
You are in a small dusty chamber. There is a hole in the ceiling and an obvious exit to the northwest.
> nw
You are in a long clean gallery. The walls are covered with frescos and the floor is a beautiful, intricately constructed mosaic of coloured stone tiles.
There is a large portrait by Rembrandt propped up nearby!
> get portrait
OK.
> se
The painting you’re carrying won’t fit through here.
> inventory
You are holding:
A Rembrandt portrait.
An aerosol can of paint.
A brass lamp.

Feel free to predict what happens next.

> drop portrait
OK.
> paint star
You paint a star on the ground nearby. The paint dries slowly and evenly.
> turn off lamp
The lamp is now off.
> zooge
There is a loud >>SNAP<< !

A year ago when I first blogged about Acheton I mentioned “one of the coolest yet also impossibly unfair puzzles I’ve ever experienced”. Here it is.

You are in a small deep chamber under the pyramid. The walls are decorated with ancient Egyptian drawings and hieroglyphics, and the floor is uneven and rocky. A dim light enters through the only exit, which is a staircase to the west.
There is a large cactus growing out of a cylindrical earthenware vessel fixed to the ground. The vessel bears an inscription: “BLEI AMEDI”.
> eat cactus
You break off a piece of cactus and eat it, finding to your surprise that it is delicious and even the spines melt in your mouth. After a moment, a feeling of dizziness overtakes you as the walls seem to recede into the distance and the entire room appears to expand around you.

Even what you’re carrying seems to get larger.

Eventually you realise that it is you who are shrinking, apparently without limit and not the room that is expanding, and this helps you to overcome your dizziness, though not your apprehension.

In the end, you are crushed by an object that you are carrying.

You appear to have died. Do you want to be reincarnated?

(The vessel inscription is I AM EDIBLE.)

The obvious solution here: not to carry anything.

This works, allows a good amount of progress, and is the irritating part. It turns out there are some objects that you CAN carry with you. There are two things small enough to turn into useful objects.

> inventory
You are holding:
A piece of thread.
A glass marble.
> look
As you look at the marble, it glows briefly. You get the impression that some vision is shown in it, but cannot see any detail.
> eat cactus
You break off a piece of cactus and eat it, finding to your surprise that it is delicious and even the spines melt in your mouth. After a moment, a feeling of dizziness overtakes you as the walls seem to recede into the distance and the entire room appears to expand around you.

Even what you’re carrying seems to get larger.

Eventually you realise that it is you who are shrinking, apparently without limit and not the room that is expanding, and this helps you to overcome your dizziness, though not your apprehension.

Your fears are groundless, as the shrinking stops suddenly.
You are holding:
A glass palantir.
Some rope.
You are in the middle of what appears to be a huge cavern with a boulder-strewn rocky floor. The walls are covered with pictures of giants and massive geometric shapes. There is an opening in the western wall through which light enters, but this is far above your reach, even if you were to get over there. A small opening can be seen under one of the rocks.
> look
As you look into the palantir, you see a brief vision which quickly fades. The ruling council of Acheton appears to be enjoying a grand banquet in their enormous council chamber. At present the banqueters are enjoying a fruit course.

This is the sort of moment I play adventure games for. I am still amazed just re-reading it.

Yet … while the thread/rope is necessary early on enough to stop the player, the marble isn’t. It is possible to get nearly to the very end of the game before needing the palantir. There’s brilliance enough for this era, it’s just still clouded by uncertainty about what makes good game design. (All the creators had access to before they made Acheton was Adventure and Zork.)

Posted December 31, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Acheton: Guess the noun   2 comments

Acheton_bbc-micro_scr-1

I know the standard frustration cliche in parser IF is guess-the-verb, but Acheton’s annoyances are more in guess-the-noun.

There is a small earthenware pot here, labelled “London Dry” on one side.
> get pot
OK.
> drink pot
I don’t understand that!
> drink london
I don’t understand that!
> drink dry
I don’t understand that!
> drink liquid
I don’t understand that!

…many variants and a Google search later…

> drink gin
You take a large swig of gin from the pot. It is very strong and you soon start to feel its effects.

Here’s another one:

> light match
OK.
> light pile
I don’t understand that!
> light driftwood
I don’t understand that!
> burn driftwood
I don’t understand that!
> burn pile
I don’t understand that!
> light fire
A few small flames are visible in the middle of the pile of wood.

Posted December 31, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Acheton: On restarts   Leave a comment

I recently played the Tin Man Games conversion of Forest of Doom for computer.

The original Forest of Doom from 1983 was a gamebook in the standard style at the time, where a winning run takes many restarts. The first bit of the map has four choices:

forestofdoomfirstpart

If you choose wrong, you have lost, although you don’t find out until the very end of the book.

Maybe some emphasis would help: if you choose wrong on the first map choice, you lose at the very end of the book.

Sigh.

AchetonManualExcerpt

This got my thinking about restarts in general which are still a general style in both parser games (like Jon Ingold’s Make It Good) and modern gamebooks (like The Sinister Fairground from Cubus Games).

Acheton is a game that very much wants you to restart, on many levels:

* The near-comedic presence of death leads to short resets.

* The ningy, which I already wrote about, is nearly guaranteed to cause a total restart.

* Optimizing lamp life can require a restart deep in the game, 500 or so moves in, requiring the steps for finding treasures be carefully tracked.

* There’s occasionally a more moderate “explorer-restart”. A simple example would be when mapping a dungeon; it is understood that you map the dungeon thoroughly first, find a good route, and then restore to the point you started.

This is the sort of thing adventure gamers accept without thinking. Consider, though: it’s deeply weird. It’s almost like it is built in (to this and many other adventures) acceptance of the sort of time travel mechanic where a character makes a “fugue echo” of themselves to send out before resetting the timeline. This is true no matter what the genre.

In my most recent play session, I came across an ocean.

achetonseamap2

[Map by Marco Cavagna.]

Fortunately I remembered this section when I played through Acheton 5 years ago, so I knew that mapping the entirety of the sea is not exactly useful; the first time around, I inspected each and every square I could because this game was evil enough I knew it would have no shame about hiding a secret.

Posted December 30, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Acheton: Big   Leave a comment

This is the “central” portion of the Acheton map (click to enlarge):

achbig2

The most striking difference between Old-IF and New-IF is sheer size. I’ve already gone into the issue with Zork. However, unlike Zork, the size in Acheton doesn’t give me a feel of world-immersion. I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Zork has some random bits like Hades or a robot, but the general intent seems to be a unified dungeon one can lovingly map on a single page. Acheton essentially demands segmentation: there’s an entire hedge maze, an entire ocean, an entire desert, an entire temple, and an entire wizard house complete with two mazes.

Moreover, the setting-as-backstory in Zork, while minimal, goes a long way to providing a unified environment. Flood Control Dam #3 is iconic enough to make a graphical appearance much later. Even the much-reviled Bank of Zork was memorable. I can’t think of any locations in Acheton that move past the merely generic.

Posted April 3, 2013 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Acheton: Cruelty   6 comments

For your perusal, one of the most evil parts of the game:

> s

You are in a large room with a polished floor and smooth walls. The only visible exits are an upwards passage to the north, and a downwards sloping corridor to the southwest. There is a 15 foot high triangular rubber object leaning against the east wall, with the words “ONE NINGY” embossed on it.

> get ningy

You pull the ningy away from the wall, but then discover that it is far too heavy for you to support. You jump away just in time to avoid being crushed by it, and then see that there were several holes in the wall behind the ningy, the largest of which is about four feet across and directly to the east.

> e

A hideous mocking voice sneers: “I suppose you think you’re clever, don’t you!”

You are in a long east-west corridor, the ends of which are out of sight.

There is a three foot black rod with a rusty star on the end nearby.

How obvious was it that you just lost the game? (You can incidentally get in about 5 hours or so in before realizing that fact.)

Test yourself: based on the text, what should you have done instead?

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You are in a large room with a polished floor and smooth walls. The only visible exits are an upwards passage to the north, and a downwards sloping corridor to the southwest. There is a 15 foot high triangular rubber object leaning against the east wall, with the words “ONE NINGY” embossed on it.
> climb ningy
OK.
You’re in a contorted passage which ends abruptly in a two foot wide hole to the west. In the other direction the passage turns two full circles before exiting to the north.

The relevant map section:

evilningy

A few extra comments:

1. The long time period before realizing there’s a mistake isn’t quite as bad as it sounds given that the optimizing-lamp-time aspect to Acheton means you’re likely need to a restart somewhere along the way. However, it is quite possible to have done that restart and still not know about the ningy trick.

2. The mocking voice is supposed to be a hint you messed up. So helpful.

3. The holes in the wall described in the text are behind the ningy. Not above. I suppose because you can’t see the one above. How lovely.

4. There really seems to be no way to even have a chance at knowing what to do without screwing up first. This hence represents five simultaneous violations of Graham Nelson’s Player’s Bill of Rights all in one go:

Not to be given horribly unclear hints
To be able to win without experience of past lives
To be able to win without knowledge of future events
Not to have the game closed off without warning
Not to need to do unlikely things

Posted March 15, 2013 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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