Archive for the ‘castle-wander’ Tag

Castle [using Wander system] (1974)   Leave a comment

In David Craddock’s book Dungeon Hacks: How NetHack, Angband, and Other Roguelikes Changed the Course of Video Games he uses the term “convergent evolution” to describe a phenomenon where multiple independent people (or groups) invent the same gameplay genre independently. In the case of roguelikes, Beneath Apple Manor (1978), Rogue (1980), and Sword of Fargoal (1982) all had some uncanny similarities that we now sort under “roguelike” but the creators weren’t aware of each other’s work. (In the case of Beneath Apple Manor, sales were low and the game remained obscure. Rogue was still restricted to a university mainframe while Sword of Fargoal was being developed.)

More recently, the games Scoundrel (2011) and Donsol (2015) both used the idea of a deck of cards as the basis of a dungeon crawl, and ended up so eerily similar they seem like clones. However, Scoundrel never had a digital edition, and the designer of Donsol (Devine Lu Linvega) had never heard of it until after Donsol came out. (More details on this story from The Clone That Wasn’t.)

All this means is that when Peter Langston designed the Wander system starting in 1974 (or possibly as early as 1973) the fact it is similar to Crowther’s Adventure is not without precedent. It indicates, instead, that perhaps there was something natural and inevitable about the act of moving a character around a world with verb-noun commands.

In any case, after the opening above there’s very little direction and no treasures to find. (I recall something about rescuing a princess, but that’s only from an external source.)


However, there are puzzles. There’s a locked door, a river which is raging too fast for a boat, a wire fence, a bridge with a weight limit (dropping everything doesn’t make you light enough), and a well that needs a rope.

The parser doesn’t feel as solid as Crowther’s. For example, at the bridge there’s a sign where you can “read sign”

The sign says,

Load limit : 18 qwerts (max)
cross at your own risk

You’re also holding a guide to playing, but if you are in the room with the sign:

The sign says,

Load limit : 18 qwerts (max)
cross at your own risk

That is, the verb is caught in a location-dependent way, and if the verb is usable in the location the parser gives it top priority and ignores the noun.

There’s a hunger timer, unfortunately, and it is possible to die of starvation. Upon death, rather than exiting the program, the game just displays this message over and over in response to any further input:

You have starved!
You Are Dead.

The general feeling is something similar to but slightly alien from Crowther’s world. I should point out this particular version was a later revision (1977-78 is the estimate) because the original ’74 source is lost, and hence it does have awareness of Adventure:

Nice try, but that’s an old, worn-out magic word.

In any case, despite the small size of the area so far I haven’t made any real progress. I do wonder if I’m missing something, because it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of possibilities to hack at. I’m particularly suspicious of the boat, which I might be able to move further on land with just the right verb. I’ll report back when I have something actually solved.

Posted December 21, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Castle: Starving for Progress   2 comments

Well, I’ve made progress, but the hunger timer is so tight that gameplay feels like an IF version of Paranoia where I send out clone after clone to die, each time using knowledge from the last clone to get a little further.


My suspicions from my last post were correct: I just needed to move the boat. and it was a silly verb issue.

You can’t do that now.
You can’t do that now.

Silly in that I had already discovered earlier that TAKE was the way to get objects, but somehow that knowledge didn’t transfer to the boat because it was entirely plausible to block taking the boat from sheer size.

Getting the boat moved led to getting a rope, and getting the rope led to getting some keys, and getting the keys led to access to a balloon and a ladder.

The balloon let me cross the bridge which had earlier stopped me due to a weight limit

You’re at the east end of a rickety wooden bridge crossing over a deep river. A road leads east toward a shallow valley filled with wildflowers. There is a large, official-looking sign here.

It must be helium in that balloon because you now weigh only 17.9 qwerts
You’re at the west end of a rickety bridge crossing a raging river.

at which point I found a shovel in a forest that I think I’m supposed to take back to the well (there’s a message “can you dig it”) but I seem to be 100% lost in the forest, and not in the maze sense — any direction loops me back to the same room. (It is possible the twisty-room type maze is purely a Crowther invention.)

There’s a river blocking one side of the forest I’m lost on, but trying to take the boat through results in:

As you start to cross the bridge you hear a loud groan and feel the bridge sag. You drop the boat and rush back just in time to see the boat and the bridge collapse into the river and get washed away.

Perhaps there’s a more clever way to get the boat safely to the right location, or another way to escape the forest with the shovel. I’ll report back when something happens.

Posted December 22, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Castle: Finished   2 comments

Or rather, finished one ending. According to the source there’s three endings, but they require an action in the winning path that crashes the game. I’ve worked out enough to describe what happens, though.


(Click the image above for the full map.)

First, how I escaped the forest, which had the odd attribute of being acutely unfair in a game system but would make some sense in real life.

You’re in a dark and dreary woods with dense foliage in all directions.
Splashing sounds and bird calls seem to come from the east.

There is a shovel here.
The way is blocked by a deep river.
This spot looks awful familiar.
You’ve made a circle.

I am not ashamed to say I had to check the source for this.

West end of bridge

I suppose if this was an episode of Survivorman and not an IF game, I could see this being the logical course of action, but “upriver” isn’t even a noun mentioned in the text. Even with that added, it’s hard enough to convey in text-form the thought “it looks like if I stay close and follow the river it will lead somewhere” that I suspect most people would not attempt it at all. (FOLLOW RIVER would have been ok, but it doesn’t work.)

A few minor puzzles later and I reached the titular Castle. It’s kind of an odd map in that there are a lot of rooms for “geography’s sake” that don’t get used for much. There’s multiple routes to different locations, including secret doors via pushing buttons that lead to places reachable from different directions. Other notable aspects:

1.) There’s a sack of potatoes inside. Once eaten I had no more problems with hunger.

2.) There’s a “true maze” of cells in the basement, but it is totally possible to ignore it. I only partially mapped it above because it was clearly not leading anywhere.

3.) There’s a missile silo which lets you launch at the portcullis to blow it up. Obviously the game didn’t have a lot of concern about sticking to a particular time period of technology.

As I already mentioned, there are three endings.

DAMSEL ENDING: The damsel is in a room named “Rapunzel’s Tower”.

You’re high above the castle in the east tower; in fact, you are so high up that you can see clouds outside the window. A spiral staircase leads down.

Oddly, doing “take damsel” results in

Don’t be lewd! (This is neither the time nor the place)

and some guessing the verb leads to instead

The damsel gratefully climbs into your arms and whispers
“take me to the cross-roads and I’ll repay your kindness!”
You hear a sound like stone grating on stone.

Unfortunately, the sound indicates the staircase being blocked off. Escape requires an item from another tower:

There is a 30 foot long wig here.

Trying to CLIMB WIG results in

You get 9 feet down and find a little tag that says
“Made in Hong-Kong, Inspcted by no 1” — the wig starts to shred!!
You frantically scramble …
and just manage to get into a window as the wig falls apart.

I am very uncertain of the physics of this situation: How were you lugging around a giant wig? How would anyone wear such a wig anyway? What is the wig attached to as you’re doing this? How are you carrying a damsel at the same time?

In any case, after this rescue there’s a clear route back to the opening room (the “cross-roads” the damsel mentions) at which point you are taken to “nirvana” and win the game.

FROG ENDING: Getting to the frog ending seems to require using the missile silo I already mentioned, but also smashing a chain with a mace (which lowers the drawbridge). The bit that involves getting a mace is what crashes the game. I’ll just reproduce the raw source code.

#44 Armory
“You’re in the castle armory. There are suits of chain mail, maces, lances,
swords, suits of armor, axes, etc, etc here. Most seem to be made of either
crude metal, perhaps iron, or a smooth grey substance; all of them, even the
wooden lances, appear to be held to the wall by some magnetic, (or is it
magic?) force. A small black and yellow sign is posted on the wall.
A small doorway leads to some stone steps going up and down.”
e 51
up 52
down 58
read\ sign m=”The sign says: \”Danger — Shock Hazard\””

take m=”You can’t budge anything, the strange force is stronger than you are.”
drop t?%INP_OBJ% s=44.1 o+mace o+%INP_OBJ% m=\
“clank … … K A B O O M ! !
The slight shock seems to have detonated some plastic explosive!

In any case, getting through both leads to a frog, which can be carted back to the Crossroads just like damsel. He then turns into a prince and you are taken to Nirvana to win the game.

DAMSEL AND FROG TOGETHER: Yes, the game is socially liberal enough you can both rescue the frog and damsel. You will all go to Nirvana together.

I’m not sure I’m ready for “final thoughts” here — I think I need to try the other offerings from the Wander system before I decide.

As a game, I found the parts after reaching the castle to be the most interesting, and I theorize they are also the parts designed before the influence of Adventure. The multiple routes simply suggest the author was trying to design a layout, and the opening linear-route-of-puzzles section was attached later to make it more of a “game”. This is pure theory, though, and it won’t be resolved unless the 1974 version written in BASIC is located. (And it’s perhaps too tempting a theory, knowing that before the original Crowther source for Adventure was located people assumed it was a pure cave exploration crawl with no magic, but this turned out not to be the case.)

The parser system in Castle is a little too erratic for me to recommend it just as a game, but it’s worth a try based on historical merits. The online version located here is the easiest to get to, although my original post has links to compiled versions.

Posted December 29, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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