|"All the Grues
That Fit, We Print"
|The New Zork® Times||The History of Zork -- Part
See Page 3
|VOL. 4 . . . No. 2||SPRING 1985||INTERMOLECULAR EDITION|
Festeron's not a bad place to live. It's a little seaside town with a picturesque church, a charming old-fashioned movie theater and a sparkling bay. There's that famous tourist attraction, Pleasure Wharf, and the Free Public Library with its collection of historic artifacts. There's even a miniature lighthouse.
The only thing Festeron doesn't have is a couple of dragons or princesses to spice things up. But that's okay. You spend a lot of time daydreaming, creating a Magick world that you can visit whenever you want. The only problem is your boss, Mr. Crisp, who always shows up when you're just about to polish off the dragon.
Mr. Crisp doesn't spice up your life -- he's more like a thorn than a dragon. But as mail clerk, you do what he tells you to do, whether it's selling a stamp or delivering a letter. And, strangely enough, it's the letter he asks you to deliver one day that makes your life in good old Festeron as exciting as your dreams.
Here at Infocom, we like to turn fantasies into reality. In Wishbringer, our newest introductory-level fantasy, you are the Festeron mail clerk seeking the extraordinary in the land of the picturesque.
The special-delivery letter Mr. Crisp asks you to take to Ye Olde Magick Shoppe turns out to be a ransom note from the mysterious Evil One. The Magick Shoppe owner's beloved cat has been kidnapped, and the ransom is an enchanted stone called Wishbringer.
When you leave the Magick Shoppe, after agreeing to help its proprietress find her cat, the charming world of Festeron has disappeared, familiar people and places gone or twisted into sinister forms. Goldfish have turned into piranhas, trolls guard bridges, grues lurk in caves, and your little post office has become a fortress-like tower. Overseeing this skewed environment is the Evil One and her omnipresent henchmen, the Boot Patrol.
As you venture through the grotesque realm of the Evil One, you'll befriend mythic creatures and evade the traps that have been set for you. And, like the Magick sword of your daydreams, the Wishbringer stone will be there to give you help when you need it.
According to legend, Wishbringer holds seven Magick wishes. The wishes, which are listed in The Legend of Wishbringer booklet included in the package, may each be used only once. To invoke a wish, you must have both the Wishbringer stone and a specified object in hand. For example, "LUCK will bring good fortune, if ye hold a Horseshoe and the Stone in thy possession."
You can solve all the puzzles in Wishbringer by logic alone. When used in this way, the story is a challenge for experienced interactive fiction fans. First-time players will appreciate having the Magick wishes to help them out.
Along with The Legend of Wishbringer, each Wishbringer package includes a postal map of Festeron and a sealed special-delivery letter (the same one Mr. Crisp asks you to deliver at the start of the story). You even get your very own glow-in-the-dark Wishbringer stone.
Wishbringer was written by Brian Moriarty, a new member of Infocom's in-house group of interactive fiction writers. It will retail for $39.95 for most systems.
These 100% cotton t-shirts are black with the same bright lettering as the front of your Hitchhiker's game package. They come in 4 sizes (S, M, L, and XL), and are available directly from Infocom (you may use the enclosed order form, or call our toll-free number [800-262-6868]). The price? Just $7.95. And considering how excited you must be about this, we're sure you'll want two or three!
P.O. Box 478
Cresskill, NJ 07626
Unfortunately, in the past some of the orders were mixed-up or slow to be processed.
We have moved our fulfillment service to a different company (note the new address) and we are confident that their service will be both accurate and speedy. (Most orders should be processed and shipped within 24 hours of receipt. That rivals even the old Zork Users Group!)
We apologize for any inconvenience our previous fulfillment service may have caused you and assure you that from now on no effort will be spared to provide you with the service you expect and deserve.
Suddenly a scream, and shots ring out. Moments later, a body is found, shot twice in the chest, near the indoor swimming pool. Examination reveals that the victim has a knife wound in his back; yet strangulation is indicated by marks around his neck. A red drink nearby turns out to be a banana daiquiri with red food coloring added.
Everyone at the party immediately becomes a suspect. Other guests' arguments with the victim are remembered and denied. Clues, motives, and accusations are exchanged.
Is this another Infocom game, where you play the detective or the dupe? Is Sergeant Duffy waiting in the wings? Can you buy InvisiClues to figure this one out?
Hardly. The party was hosted by Infocom (who else?), to promote its most recent mystery game, Suspect. Retailers, distributors, and lots of press were in town to attend the January 1985 CES (the Consumer Electronics Show, not the Convention of Enchanters and Sorcerers). With the help of a New York troupe of actors named Murder To Go, Inc., Infocom staged a crime and let the party guests become participants in solving the murder.
Sound like fun? It was; it was almost as much fun as Suspect.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been called "without doubt the best adventure ever seen on a computer." Who said that? Not Binky O'Leary (he hated the game). Not Mozart (he died before he could figure out the babel fish problem). No, it was some little-known start-up newspaper called The Times of London, on March 12, 1985. Cheers!
Admit it: you read People magazine. You read it at home; you read it at the dentist's office; you read it while waiting on (or in) the check-out line at the supermarket. So in the March 18, 1985, issue, you saw the article about Infocom games in the "Picks & Pans" section (we were, you remember, a "pick"). You read that (in the reviewer's words) "there's a refreshing side to interactive fiction: It lets you use your imagination, instead of reflexes, and stimulates you to build pictures in your mind, instead of leaving them in flat dimensions on the screen." Infocom is glad you saw that article, so it doesn't have to tell you about it.
Finally, this headline from the November 22, 1984, Salt Lake City Tribune: "New Software By Infocom Isn't Boring." Oh well; you can't please everyone.
But some people didn't like the designation "junior-level." It sounded like it was for children only. Adults didn't want a kid's game; in fact, kids didn't want a kid's game. So Infocom went back to the (all-text) drawing boards.
Introducing (drumroll, please) "introductory level"! Infocom's first introductory-level game is Wishbringer, a new fantasy story in which your home town becomes a living nightmare. It's not just for kids: Wishbringer is a great introduction to interactive fiction for everyone from age 9 up. So tell your friends -- whether they're macho linebackers, adventurous grandmothers, or just someone looking for a challenge and a thrill.
On the lighter side, I would like to congratulate everyone at Infocom for their successes. So far I have played eleven games and have enjoyed them all very much, except that a yak doesn't appear in a single one! Anyway, keep up the good work.
It seemed so long ago that we were delighted by these Yak Facts in the Fall '84 issue. The Mrs. and I were sure that the new issue would hold more of these wondrous facts, only to be slapped in the face by your yak-hating editors.
So a final farewell to those good ole days of yak (?), we offer these final bits of yak facts:
Did you know that...
Planetfall is a wonderful game,
After I played it, I wasn't the same.
The Stellar Patrol is invincible,
With their ships made of steel and lead.
Their motto is: To Boldly Go
Where Angels Fear To Tread.
The roses have lost their luster,
And I have lost my love.
The heavens have lost their moonlight,
And all the stars above.
The sky is plagued with darkness,
The orchids rot with rue.
The world is dark and meaningless,
I've been eaten by a grue.
--Jared A. Sorensen
Beneath the rug my adventure began
The way was fraught with danger and reward
Vanquish a troll and find the shadow man
A score of treasure found, safely stored.
Unto the Wizard's realm I then did go,
Melting the great dragon to gain the key.
Turn out the light and follow the dim glow
Open the door, a well fought victory!
The quest however is not at an end,
The Dungeon Master waits with clever tricks,
Defeat him and with none do you contend,
Deep in the heart contentment does transfix.
Thus the end of my odyssey draws nigh
I finish proud of deed and spirits high.
'Tis sad I am
That my new disc
Has ceased to boot
Oh tsk Oh tsk
I used it once
On Christmas Day
Now it won't work
When I would play
If I have caused
By careless disk drive
Then I must pay
The dollars five
If once again
I wish to strive
To beat Suspended
I NEED THE HELP OF INFOCOM
Zorkers are great, Zorkers are cool,
Zorkers know not to swim in the pool.
Zorkers are clever, sneaky, and sly,
And only Zorkers know why...
When to come in, when to go out,
What to do in case of a bout
Between trolls, thieves, dragons, and bats,
And how to use the old place mats.
We travel the land, the water, and air,
And rely on intelligence in case of a scare.
We do many things, no matter the risk,
And to think this great world is just on a disk.
We have conquered the thief, dragon, and troll,
But our final challenge will be my goal.
To reach the master, as he sits in his seat,
The man, all this time, I've wanted to meet.
Will he praise me, slay me or call me a rookie?
Will he reach in his pocket and give me a cookie
For the very hard job of reaching his house?
Will he kick me out? Turn me into a mouse?
I guess time will tell in this situation
I just hope I can stand all the frustration!
I am not giving up, Master, you'll see
With the trouble you've caused me, you won't get off free!
I now leave these meaningful lines of verse,
For, without Zork, life would be much worse!
When last seen, Zork® was a small game (probably slightly more than half the size of the final mainframe version) that ran on one computer. Although it was only six weeks old, and had never been advertised, it had a relatively large user community from all over the country. In some ways it was better than the classic Adventure at this time, but mostly it was the next game to come along, and it wasn't even the only contender.
The characters: MIT-DM, a PDP-10 running ITS; MDL (aka Muddle), a language that ran only on PDP-10s; Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, Dave Lebling, and Tim Anderson, intrepid implementers; and assorted net randoms.
July 1977 saw two major additions to the game, the last for several months (we weren't exactly hired to write the thing, after all). The first of these was another BKD special: Bruce didn't write much code, but he was willing to design problems. We went to him, and asked for a particularly nasty section; the result was the coal mine. His design was originally nastier than the final implementation, since the maze was just about as horrible as the original one in the game; it got simplified due to popular demand. The problems were improving in quality, and the coal mine maze was a late example of making things hard by making them tedious.
The volcano section was Marc's second vehicle implementation, but is perhaps more noteworthy for the loving portraits of Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive that decorated the coin and stamp found in the section. The river (see Part I) and volcano sections, in addition to vehicles, required a better concept of time: both the boat and the balloon moved more or less on their own, and the volcano required the use of explosives and fuses. Marc added a clock daemon, which processed a queue of events that would happen some fixed number of moves later. This handled, in addition to the movement of the vehicles, the fuse, the lantern burning out, and the mysterious gnomes that occasionally appear. The first of these was in the volcano: if the player got trapped in the upper reaches of the volcano by losing his balloon, after a few moves a volcano gnome would appear and offer freedom in exchange for a treasure. We were just being nice; most players weren't allowed to save their games, so they had no way of backing out if they made such a mistake. The gnome allowed them to keep playing, albeit with no chance of getting all the points.
Even before the volcano section, we'd talked about a problem that involved flying; Dave had a preference for something with an eagle, and its aerie, but we could never figure out how to restrict things enough -- it wouldn't do to have a parallel map of the game viewed from the air. Once again, we worried about restraining a new concept, so the balloon had no way of leaving the volcano. And once again we were bitten by a new concept. When the player used the explosives in the wrong place, and didn't get out of the way, he'd end up with 20,000 pounds (or was it tons?) of rock on his head. This made a certain amount of sense in the underground section, but not out in the forest.
No more sections were added to the game for several months after July, but it continued to improve. In addition, it finally moved to machines other than DM, thus greatly expanding the number of players.
Although Muddle ran primarily on DM, a version for TENEX (the most popular PDP-10 operating system on the ARPAnet) had existed for some time; the TENEX version could, with some minor modifications, run on TOPS-20 as well. We finally succumbed to one of the requests for a copy of Zork when we were given an account on a TOPS-20 machine on the net. After we made the necessary software modifications, of course, many copies could be made; a mailing list of Zork owners developed, so they could get whatever updates appeared.
Although people could get runnable Zorks, they couldn't get sources. We tried two approaches to protecting the sources (remember, there was no protection of any sort on DM): they were normally kept encrypted; and we patched the system to protect the directory where we kept the sources (named CFS, for either "Charles F. Stanley" or "Computer Fantasy and Simulation"). This worked pretty well, but was finally beaten by a system hacker from Digital: using some archaic ITS documentation (there's never been any other kind), he was able to figure out how to modify the running operating system. Being clever, he was also able to figure out how our patch to protect the source directory worked. Then it was just a matter of decrypting the sources, but that was soon reduced to figuring out the key we'd used. Ted had no trouble getting machine time; he just found a new TOPS-20 machine that was undergoing final testing, and started a program that tried every key until it got something that looked like text. After less than a day of crunching, he had a readable copy of the source. We had to concede that anyone who'd go to that much trouble deserved it. This led to some other things later on.
Players hadn't been able to save their Zorks because the method we used at first took several hundred thousand bytes for each save, and even on a time-sharing system that was excessive. Marc, around this time, invented a new way of saving that cut the size down to something more reasonable, with the slight disadvantages that any new rooms or objects added to the old game would break existing save files, and that it never quite worked right anyway. However, it did make it easier to play the game, and we still had the silly notion of being nice to our users.
Fall '77 saw two major additions to the game, as Marc took another break from medical school (yes, fans, he did graduate on time), and Dave got into coding in a big way. The Alice in Wonderland section, complete with its magic bucket and robot, was installed. The robot was the first "actor," an object that could perform some of the same tasks the player could. The style of address was familiar: "ROBOT, TAKE THE CAKE." The implementation of this required another change in the game's flow of control, and changes to anything else that one could reasonably talk to.
The first version of fighting was added about the same time. Dave, an old Dungeons and Dragons player, didn't like the completely predictable ways of killing creatures off. In the original game, for example, one killed a troll by throwing a knife at him; he would catch the knife and gleefully eat it (like anything else you threw at him), but hemorrhage as a result. Dave added basically the full complexity of DD-style fighting, with different strengths for different weapons, wounds, unconsciousness, and death. Each creature had its own set of messages, so a fight with the thief (who uses a stiletto) would be very different from a fight with the troll and his axe.
As a result of the purloined sources at DEC, a lunatic there decided to translate Zork into FORTRAN. We had always assumed this would be impossible: Muddle is very (oops, very) different from FORTRAN, and much more complicated, and we'd used most of its features in designing Zork. The guy who did it was mostly a hardware person, so perhaps he didn't know what he was up against. At any rate, shortly after the Great Blizzard of '78 he had a working version, initially for PDP-11s. Since it was in FORTRAN, it could run on practically anything, and by now it has.
Unfortunately, at some point in the preceding year we (no one will now admit to suggesting the idea) had decided to change the name of the game. Zork was too much of a nonsense word, not descriptive of the game, etc., etc., etc. Silly as it sounds, we eventually started calling it Dungeon. (Dave admits to suggesting the new name, but that's only a minor sin.) When Bob the lunatic released his FORTRAN version to the DEC users' group, that was the name he used. I'm sure many people have noticed a curious similarity between the Dungeon game they played on their friendly IBM 4341 and the Zork I they played on their equally friendly IBM PC; now you know why.
Fortunately for us, a certain company (which shall remain nameless) decided to claim that it had trademark rights to the name Dungeon, as a result of certain games that it sold. We didn't agree (and MIT had some very expensive lawyers on retainer who agreed with us), but it encouraged us to do the right thing, and not hide our Zorks under a bushel.
The next section that was added was intended to be the last: after a player had accumulated all the points in the game, he could play the End Game, designed largely by Dave. This became the section of Zork III with the Dungeon Master, and at the time was certainly the most involved, and hardest (as it should have been) thing in the game. The implementation was, if anything, more involved than the problem. Less than two months later, though, Marc had come up with something worse, probably during a boring anatomy lecture. The bank section has probably been fully deciphered by fewer people than anything else in the game; even those who solve it on their own don't usually understand what was going on. I can only say that it makes sense if you understand it.
For some time, we'd been getting bug reports, fan mail, and suggestions for new problems from all sorts of people. We were beginning to run a little short on ideas anyway, and one of the ideas we got was very good. During a lengthy dinner at Roy's, our favorite Chinese restaurant, we worked out the details of the jewel-encrusted egg, purple prose courtesy of Dave. Many people on the net had long since solved the game, but went back in and did any new problems that came along; one of them had played DD with Dave, and called him up about a day after the egg was announced. "I've gotten the egg opened, but I assume you losers have some nonsense where you do something with the canary and the songbird." Dave, no fool, said "Cough, cough, ahem, of course," and immediately went off and added the brass bauble.
The remaining puzzles, the Royal Zork Puzzle Museum and the palantirs, were added in the late summer and fall of 1978. The puzzle was designed (several times) primarily by Bruce, who in theory was back trying to finish his dissertation. Finding the minimum number of moves required to solve it was a popular pastime among dedicated Zorkers for a while.
The last (lousy) point was a tribute to the final point in the original Adventure, which involved leaving a particular object in a particular room for no particular reason. When we first solved Adventure in 1977, Bruce finally figured this out by using a machine-language debugger on the running game (since Adventure was not written in machine language, this was not easy). The major difference between that and our version (a stamp worth One Lousy point) is that it would be harder to find ours without the source of the game.
The last puzzle was added in February of '79. We (mainly I, at this point) kept fixing bugs for almost two more years -- the last mainframe update was created in January of '81. No new puzzles were added because none of the implementers had time or inclination, and because we had no more space available: at the time, we were limited to a megabyte of memory, and we had used it all up. The first article about Zork appeared in April of '79, and attracted a great deal of interest; some of this may have been because we offered to give people the game (if they didn't already have it), and gave them parts of the sacred sources as well.
Infocom was incorporated in 1979 by various people from the DM group, including Marc, Dave, and me. It was not founded to sell Zork; rather, it was founded to give group members somewhere to go from MIT. Marc and Joel Berez (both exiled to Pittsburgh) determined that it would be possible to make Zork run on something cheaper than the $400,000 PDP-10, and the company eventually went along. See the next NZT for further details.
In the meantime, we still get requests for hints on the mainframe Zork (sometimes it's called Dungeon, and often it's running on something other than a PDP-10). The most recent request for a copy came in on April 1, but I think it was serious.
Sunset over the stark plains of the Ben Lomond plateau.
Diggers seek shade from the scorching noontime sun.
Doctor Feep supervises a crew of local diggers.
Doctor Feep, surrounded by several guards and his therapist, boards the plane back for the return trip to America.
After dinner, crew members quaff flagons of "qisslepou", a local ale.
A surprise visitor to the encampment, a full-grown kangaroo, startles Melinda Feep.
Professor Edward Wilsonfoot, from the Archaeology Department of the University of Sydney, exchanges heated words with Doctor Feep.
A poisonous asp, one of the dangers of the treacherous Tasmanian mountain ranges that the archaeological crew must constantly be on watch for.
In the midst of an excavation, Doctor Feep (wearing the black sombrero) points to the outline of the walls of a fortified emu temple, visible in the photo as dark, linear markings in the soil.
Because of the recent craze of treasure-hunting that seems to have swept through the remnants of the Great Underground Empire (GUE), most people seem to associate the GUE only with jewels and gold, and forget that it was once a thriving kingdom of people, replete with traditions, culture, and art.
For example, almost every book or classroom course on the GUE ignores its fine musical heritage. This heritage goes back to the very earliest years of the GUE. Zilbo III, the last ruler of the Entharion Dynasty, who is most known for his invention of the card game Double Fanucci, is also the inventor of the brass Trombuoy, and wrote several sonatas for Trombuoy and Danvictorhorn.
The most popular music among the masses of the GUE was a type known as rock music, so-called because it was produced by banging together rocks (which were left lying all over the place following the construction of the caverns and tunnels of the GUE) and also because listeners frequently stuffed rocks in their ears due to the loud volumes involved.
The origins of the GUE's rock music can be traced to the legendary singer Elvis Flathead, whose first concert in 841 propelled him to stardom. However, the most famous rock musicians were undoubtedly Sgt. Duffy's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Their songs include "I Get By With a Little Hint >From My Friends" ("Would you be mad if I showed you a bug/Would you stand up and log out on me?") and "Sandy Cave" ("Sandy Cave is in my ears and in my eyes/There beneath the Frigid River skies").
A later addition to the GUE's rock music scene was a group called Men at Zork, whose hit song "Down Under" revitalized interest in the medium ("So you come from a land down under/Where trolls kill and thieves plunder"). Another popular rock artist was Billy Troll. (Editor's Note: As a matter of fact, Infocom President Troll Berez is named after him.) Other important rock musicians of the GUE were a group named Jefferson Bucket (later re-named Jefferson Balloon) and a cute robot named Pink Floyd.
For the royal elite, more classical styles of music were in vogue. The most famous of these works is the "Toccata and Fugue and Theme and Variations, Opus No. 69105" by Johann Sebastian Flathead, commissioned by his cousin, Lord Dimwit the Excessive. The piece was only performed once in its entirety, in 787. Legend has it that several members of the 98,000-piece royal orchestra, chorus, corps de ballet, artillery battery, fireworks brigade, and smoke effects crew failed to survive the eighty-seven day ordeal.
However, I was quite unhappy with Starcross. In the first place, there seems to be no logic to the fourth bump. If you have read Rendezvous With Rama, you recall that three was a key number to the builders of Rama. Perhaps the builders of the artifact in Starcross had four fingers, but how am I to know that?
Let me take the biology next. An exoskeleton is useful to retain body fluids for small animals, which have a large surface to volume ratio. However, an exoskeleton has the drawback that the owner must molt in order to grow. Hence, I think you will find animals with endoskeletons are better suited for ecological niches requiring large size. Unless, of course, you believe in creation and not evolution. Also, how could you tell that Gurthark was a mammal? I take it you didn't milk him.
Also, I think it is a general rule of ethology that animals will hide their weapons when they intend to appease. A sea gull will turn its beak away, and, while a man learns the action, he raises his empty hands. A careful observation of Gurthark would have shown, I think, that he was waving his palps, in a manner reminiscent of a male jumping spider semaphoring a female to placate her, and that he was not grinding his teeth at all. Moreover, surely a civilized gentleman like Gurthark would never sidle into someone else's personal space while they were talking. Actually, I found Gurthark the most sympathetic character in Starcross, and was sorry that programming limitations made it impossible to chat with him. However, I thought a video tape recorder would have been of more interest to him, if he had deciphered speech, and had been listening to broadcasts. I don't know -- is it easier to decipher broadcasts of pictures or of speech?
As for trading the space suit for the brown rod, I suggest you read Chagnon's account of the Yanomamo, if you think it would be easy to trade with a people who have been long isolated. I also doubt if a single group is viable, as contrasted to several groups divided into territories. I admit my view is gloomy in view of modern weapons, but that doesn't prove it untrue.
Let me take the physics next. If one were to float from the center of a rotating cylinder in a vacuum, one would certainly not accelerate. There is no centrifugal force. One would move to the outer surface at the same speed at which he left the axis. If the radial speed of the cylinder were 250 km per hour, the effect would be the same as jumping on a very large flatbed truck moving at 250 km an hour. However, I fail to see any reason why the artifact should rotate at a speed designed to give one earth gravity. If we assume a radial speed of 60 km an hour, or about one quarter earth gravity, then of course, anyone landing on a flat metal surface would be knocked arsy varsy when he landed, but I imagine one could make such a jump. Of course, once one reached radial speed of sixty km, one would feel as if one were in a quarter gravity. I assume no structures on the rim, but a flat surface.
Of course, a ray gun has no recoil. Read Earthman's Burden by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson. Of course, we must conserve momentum; we don't want it to become extinct; and radiation has no rest mass, and so no momentum.
Mostly, I objected to simple logic faults. I had inferred the green rod was either in a planter, or in the garage, although I didn't know the name. Surely one can sit on an object a meter long, and half a meter high. Contrast this with the remark in Sorcerer, when I tell the bat to take the parchment scroll. After all, bats have claws, but the remark, "You're batty," had enough wit to be unobjectionable. For example, you might say, "The mouse won't do anything until you get off his back!" or perhaps something a little more witty. After all, as Chesterton remarked, one can believe in the impossible, but not in the improbable. Father Brown cited the case of Gladstone offering Queen Victoria a cigar, but I can't believe I need a theory to sit on an object the size of a footstool. Of course, the edges of the container on the mouse's back might be sharp. Another point -- why does the program recognize the word "planter"? Of course, I never obtained the red rod, so perhaps I am missing something.
After all, the difficulties in Starcross require a rather specialized knowledge of spherical coordinates, and nautical directions. I would imagine anyone with that knowledge would also spot howlers.
Planetfall was campy enough that I suppose one can't really criticize it. Also, I haven't finished it. However, I do think one shouldn't weep crocodile tears over someone for whom one couldn't provide covering fire. I did try to shoot the mutations, but the computer wouldn't recognize the word. I felt that was the least I could do, since I typed "KICK FLOYD" instead of "WAIT" in the elevator and the shuttle.
I've only gotten to 205 in Sorcerer so it is satisfactory as far as difficulty, and I've liked it so far. However, Starcross irritated me enough so that I doubt if I shall buy any more of your games.
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
Bumps. If you read the description carefully, you will find an analogy with something far more obvious than the supposition that the artifact builders had four fingers. The fourth bump is obviously the Earth, the current destination of the artifact and your home. In short, it's more of a test than an example of numerical obsession. (It's the fourth bump because the large one representing the sun also counts.)
Gurthark. The whole point of the Gurthark "problem" is to see exactly how species-centric the player is. Gurthark is obviously not a spider, for the reasons you cited, but he's hairy and multi-armed and -legged, and he lives in a room crisscrossed by wires (not webs, notice). He seems rather spidery, and the solution to the problem is to deal with him without worrying about his appearance.
Weasels. Actually, the Yanomamo are regarded by ethnologists as possibly the most hostile, xenophobic tribe ever discovered, so I wouldn't use them as an example. Besides, they aren't isolated. One reason they are so warlike is that they have been driven by pressure from other tribes into their present locale. I see the Weasels as living in a more benign environment. Their only "natural" enemy would be the Rat-Ants. You are probably right about the single group being non-viable in the long term. On the other hand, the Bounty mutineers have survived without significant outside contact or gene-pool contribution for 200 years.
Physics. You are absolutely right about floating from the center of a rotating cylinder in a vacuum. However, the interior of the artifact is not a vacuum. You would start slowly, then accelerate, not from the force of gravity but from the "wind" produced by the interaction of your inertia (following a straight path out from the center) and the inertia of the air (rotating about the axis of rotation of the artifact). You would hit hard but the effect of the wind would have speeded you up somewhat. I assumed .5g, by the way.
Ray guns. Ray guns can have recoil. For example, the current best-known "ray gun" is the design for the so-called Star Wars missile defense, which starts by producing a large explosion whose energy is then lased. It is possible to imagine ray gun technologies that work by similar methods.
Planters. There are planters (and plants) in various halls, part of the oxygen recycling system. The program, within limits, recognizes the words it uses in descriptions.
Mouse. I agree the message should be better. In the current version it says "You can't climb onto the maintenance mouse." It's accurate, if inelegant. I will probably change it to say "The mouse whirrs and buzzes unhappily. It much prefers to collect small pieces of debris."
Teeth. I know an animal that shows its teeth as a gesture of friendship: man. What do you think a smile is? Gurthark is probably trying his best to smile.
I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Starcross. Perhaps if you take time to finish it you will like it better. I don't think it has as many howlers as you do.
Cartoons will be printed approximately 4¼ inches wide by 5 inches deep, so please draw your cartoons proportionally. Entries must be in black ink (no pencil or color illustrations will be considered) on white unlined paper. Do not fold your entries! All submissions become the property of Infocom, Inc. Be sure to send your cartoon to: NZT Cartoons, Infocom, Inc., 125 CambridgePark Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140. And don't forget to include a separate sheet that tells us who you are, what game you wish to win, your computer system, and where you live.
At the age of nine, Sasha Blunderbraas toured the courts of Europe, playing Adventure for the royalty. At the age of twelve, he stunned the continent by solving the entire SAGA series in two hours and seven minutes. Two years ago, his performance of Starcross at the Albert Hall received a forty-five minute standing ovation. His videotapes have sold forty-million copies. When great interactive fiction players are discussed, Blunderbraas stands apart from the rest, a class unto himself. Where does someone go from the top?
The lights dim, and an expectant hush settles over the standing-room-only crowd at Carnegie Hall. They await his appearance with bated breath, their eager faces illuminated with a ghostly blue from the projection TVs, displaying the bootscreen of Zork I.
Blunderbraas seems so ordinary, sitting in his midtown hotel room in blue-jeans and a T-shirt, sipping a can of soda. It's hard to believe that this unassuming figure is the genius whose name is synonymous with performing interactive fiction.
"People are always surprised at my appearance when they see me for the first time," explains Blunderbraas, almost apologetically. "I think they expect someone taller, more commanding, with unkempt wild hair and a look of near madness in his eyes. I'm actually just pretty ordinary-looking."
The huge hall erupts with applause as Blunderbraas strides onto the stage, and it's easy to see why so many people have a bigger than life-size image of the master, as fifty-foot television screens capture him as he walks over to the waiting computer.
Blunderbraas swills the soda around in his mouth, pondering his answer. "Why Zork I again? Well, to tell you the truth, I've always had a particular fondness for its simplicity of structure. It's an almost perfect piece, and of course it's very accessible to audiences, which explains its tremendous popularity. With its very first three words, West of House, a familiar mood is established, forming a common meeting ground for audience and performer."
As Blunderbraas flips back his tails and settles onto the computer stool, a dead silence falls over the room. There is an electrifying moment while Blunderbraas seems frozen, his hands poised over the keyboard. Then with a crash of the keys, he's off and running, with the swift, steady inputs that are his trademark.
"I love to play Carnegie Hall," explains Blunderbraas, skirting the question of why he is touring again after two years of semi-retirement. "Its age, its ornateness, juxtaposed against the modern simplicity of the computer, creates an image of contradiction that frequently inspires me in my performance." A smile portends the release of a bauble from the stored wisdom of the master. "The great Wilbur Kleister once called our art 'using illogic to untwist logical contradictions.' I was never sure what he meant by that until the first time I played Carnegie."
The opening moves of Zork I are standard, familiar to almost everyone, but already Blunderbraas has the audience gasping at his innovation, his daring twists and turns. His use of abbreviation during the troll battle leaves an unsuspecting woman in the front row on the verge of tears. The performance is still in its first minute, and already the audience's emotions are putty in the master's hands.
Traffic noise from Fifth Avenue is the only sound as Blunderbraas chews thoughtfully at the hot, bubbling, room service pizza. "I'd be lying if I said the audience reaction doesn't affect me. There's a bond there, and even though my concentration, my top-level thought, is fixed on that story, there's a secondary level of thought that is fed, nourished, and inspired by the level of electricity in the theatre."
As the emerald joins sixteen other treasures in the trophy case, an almost electric tremor ripples through the audience. The audience can sense history in the making; performances such as this one come only once in a lifetime. A man in the audience grabs his stunned wife's arm. "Not since the great Kleister have I seen such a magnificent use of AGAIN!" he murmurs.
"You hear this, you read that, what does it matter?" Blunderbraas asks, shrugging off the suggestion that his performance at Carnegie Hall was his greatest ever. "Am I better than Kleister? Maybe, maybe not. Was Carnegie last night better than Albert Hall two years ago? Maybe, maybe not. Why should I ask myself questions I cannot answer?"
There are no surprises left. Blunderbraas skillfully sweeps the audience forward with his final, brilliant inputs. As the closing words of the story appear on the screen, and the barrow door crashes shut, the enthralled multitude is drawn to its feet as though by a single cord. As Blunderbraas turns for his bows, the room thunders with applause that threatens to bring down the walls. It rolls on and on, resounding around the room, propelling the evening's performance down the corridor of time, toward a pedestal of greatness it has already earned.
His agent appears at the door, reminding Blunderbraas of the impending flight. The master agrees to a final question. What's next for the man who is, if not unequalled in the annals of his art, at least unsurpassed? More performances? More tours, tapes, training? An autobiography? "Just now, I mostly want to go home, lie around on the beach, putter around my garden. When I feel the need to perform again, I will perform again." He reaches for his jacket and knapsack. "By the way," he asks. "Do you know when the next Hitchhiker's game will be out?"
It's not easy making a game challenging but not too frustrating for most players. For one thing, we all have different backgrounds, educations, hobbies, and skills.
Our difficulty ratings are an indication of how hard or easy it should be for most people to get involved in the game. The older games were rated based on hundreds or thousands of comments received from players over the years. The new games are evaluated by our inside and outside testers, a significantly smaller but, we hope, representative group. Many of the problems are tweaked based on the testers' input.
If you find yourself up against a roadblock in one of the games, do something else for awhile; then you can attack the problem again with a fresh perspective. (This is why it often helps to play with a friend -- a different point of view can be a great asset.) Whatever you do, don't despair! You'll figure it out. Remember: the greatest satisfaction results from solving the hardest problems. But you already know that...
By the way, there were a few photocopies among the entries for the last couple of puzzles. Your entry must be on the form below; not a copy. Don't bother even trying -- despite all claims by photocopier manufacturers, photocopies are quite easy to tell apart from the original.
ANSWER: ______ ______ Name: ___________________________________________________ Address: ________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ T-Shirt Size (S, M, L, XL): ______CONTEST RULES:
125 CambridgePark Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140
There were 463 entries to Puzzle Number Four, and all but two of them were correct. As usual, our exciting drawing drew a sellout crowd. Here are the 25 lucky winners:
|Managing Editor||Jennifer "Jen" Fine|
|Puzzle Editor||Steven "Stevo" Meretzky|
|Wishbringer Editor||Elizabeth "Eliz" Langosy|
|Sports Editor||I see no sports editor here|
|Photo Editor||Paul "Grossboy" Gross|
|Cartoon Editor||Jeff "Jeffrey" O'Neill|
|History Editor||Tim "Chomper" Anderson|
|Editing Editor||Jon "Caesar's" Palace|
|Publisher||Michael "Stan" Dornbrook|
|Production Manager||Angela "The Whip" Raup|
© 1985 Infocom, Inc., 125 CambridgePark Drive,
Cambridge, MA 02140
Zork is a registered trademark of Infocom, Inc. Enchanter, Sorcerer, Starcross, Suspended, Planetfall, Deadline, The Witness, Suspect, Infidel, Seastalker, Cutthroats, Wishbringer, InvisiClues, and Cornerstone are trademarks of Infocom, Inc. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a trademark of Douglas Adams.
Thanks to André St-Aubin for transcribing and HTML-izing this issue.