Sunday, June 16, 2019

Mystery Mansion: Getting Some Booty

Before I get started, I should note that I've given up on Terry Newton's "practically exact" port of Mystery Mansion. The lack of a save feature became much too frustrating, so I switched over to a C port made by Bob Sorem (which can be found here). It's not exactly authentic, but I was never going to get anywhere in this game without saves. Plus, both ports look and feel the same in play, which I feel says something for the authenticity of both.

My plan at the end of the last post was to explore the tunnels underneath the Front Porch, where I had been previously savaged by a werewolf. This turned out to be a bust; after falling through the Porch (with a light on this time) I found that I was in the basement's Furnace Room, which I had previously explored. There were no werewolves in sight, and now I'm wondering if I might have imagined getting killed by one in the first place.

Since I was down there, I decided to have a closer look at the Cold Corridor, which is accessed through a Secret Room. When you enter the Cold Corridor, a wall move towards you and will crush you if you hang around too long. I hadn't had a proper look here yet, but closer inspection revealed a door to the north. I was able to unlock it and get through, but the closing wall left me trapped in the room beyond. The trick to getting in lay in the fact that the crushing wall retreats when you go back into the Secret Room. I jumped into the Cold Corridor, unlocked and opened the door, and went back to the Secret Room. After the wall retreated, I was able to zip back through the door and down a ladder, where I found the Tricky Treasury.

The Treasury contained some pirate's treasure, and there was also a cavity in the wall. I wasn't able to figure this out yet (but more on it later). I had one more avenue to explore: the Mole Maze.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in my previous posts, but if you head down from the Storage Room in the basement there is a maze of tunnels that's been dug out by a mole. I had an absolute bastard of a time trying to map this thing out, using the tried-and-true method of leaving inventory items scattered about in each area. It didn't help here, because while I was about halfway through the maze changed. Not only did a mole dig out these tunnels, but he's still around, and will happily dig out new ones just to mess with you. I killed him with a sword, just to see if I could, but I'm not sure if this murder solved the problem or not. In the end I caved, and copied the map made by Jason Dyer of Using this I was able to penetrate the maze to the Mole's Vault, where I found an amulet. I was also able to find my way back before the mole changed everything, and I chose that as a very good time to save my game. Hopefully I can start all of my games from this point from now on, and never have to deal with this maze again.

Jason Dyer's Mole Maze Map

Having broken the seal, I read a few more spoilers from Jason's page in an attempt to speed up my completion of the game. The first thing I discovered was the purpose of the cavity in the Treasure Room: if you put the amulet in it and turn it, it opens a secret stairwell. As far as I can tell, there is basically nothing in the game that would signal this as a possibility, so I feel okay about this cheat.

The stairwell led down into another maze, the Treasure Trek. I had a lot more success mapping this one out by dropping items, except for one problem: the maze is slowly filling with water, and it's a race against time to get through to all of the treasures. I was able to map it out through trial and error, and I'm pretty sure that I found everything.

There were two tunnels that were flooded no matter how quickly I raced through the maze. The Troll Traps both featured a sleeping troll, and numerous items scattered around. I've marked those on the map that can be taken safely. If you try to take anything else, the troll wakes up and bludgeons you to death.

As for the Den of Death, I wasn't able to find the pearls on my own. The room is filled with nothing but boulders and skeletons, and the first time I entered I couldn't find anything to do here. I didn't even register that the boulders could be interacted with. Looking at a walkthrough on, I discovered that you could try to move the boulders multiple times, with a bag of pearls eventually being revealed.

Before the boulders could be moved, though, I needed the Gauntlet of Gargantuan Girth. This could apparently be found in the kitchen, by moving a wooden figure of a king. When I went back to the kitchen, there was no chess board mentioned. There were some tables though, and to see the king you need to LOOK AT TABLES. Move it, and the gauntlet will be revealed. (There's also a queen figure, but moving that gets you shot by a row of wooden indians.) Not only does the gauntlet let you move boulders, but it also increases your carrying capacity, so it's real handy.

I guess those wooden indians were distracting me?

It's become very apparent that success at this game requires a very careful study of the room descriptions. I'm all for this in general, but if something is just sitting on a table I feel like it should be mentioned. I guess there's a case to be made that the gauntlet is an optional item, and doesn't need to be located to beat the game, but I don't think it's playing fair to obscure things that should be readily observable by the protagonist.

So I had located all of the treasures of the maze, but I had one small problem: how would I get back out? I was able to navigate back to the Tricky Treasury, but every time I tried to leave I found the path back to the basement blocked by the crushing wall. So, once again with shame, I consulted a walkthrough for the answer.

It turns out that there's a door leading up from the Batty Bathroom. I'd noticed it before, but every time I tried to enter I was told that I "could not quite get through the small door". At first I figured that I needed a stepladder or something, or perhaps a means of making myself smaller. Later on I tried dropping all of my stuff, but that didn't work either. Well, this game has yet another surprise: you can drop your clothes, even though they're not mentioned in your inventory. With that done I was able to squeeze through the door into a mad scientist's laboratory. There I found a matter transmitter and a matter receiver, which could be used to teleport.

What was I wearing, an inflatable fat suit?

Of course, I had no idea how, and none of the commands I tried worked. Perhaps I would have had more success if I'd put myself into the mindset of a late-1970s college student, because the commands BEAM UP and BEAM DOWN were the magic words. BEAM UP serves to teleport you to the lab, and BEAM DOWN will take you to wherever the receiver is set down. Again, I doubt I ever would have tried these.

Armed with the above items, I feel like I can make a run at finishing the game with a good score, but before trying that there's one more thing you can do in this game that I noticed while skimming the walkthrough.

Bad grammar in that first sentence makes it sound like I'm pulling myself into bed.

This one takes some doing. First, you have to take a shower. Then you have to get the maid into a locked room where there are no other characters, and you also have to drop all of your gear and get undressed. She doesn't like doing it with the lights on either, so you have to close the curtains before the above raunchy sequence can occur.  You can also sleep with the Lady, using the same tactics. None of this is hinted at in the game, but since it doesn't score you any points I guess that doesn't matter. I'm not sure what other characters you can sleep with, because I'm a whitebread hetero dude and I only tried it on with the ladies. I might at least have a crack at the vampire to see what happens though.

Also, while we're on the topic of sex...

No word on whether it's pining for the fjords.

It's funny with pretty much every other inventory item in the game as well.

That's enough for this week. As you might have gathered by my frequent resorting to walkthroughs, I've kind of had a gut-full of this game. I suppose that it's not so difficult to figure out how to solve the main plot - the murder mystery - but everything else you can do is ridiculously obtuse. My current plan is to cheat like mad, and knock this game off in one more post. I'll be happy to see the back of it.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Mystery Mansion: A Quick Bit of Gardening

I haven't played much Mystery Mansion in the last fortnight, but in the interests of keeping a regular schedule I just did a quick bit of exploring so that I can at least post something. It's not going to be all that substantial, but it's all I got.

The area that I explored was the Gargoyle Garden, which can be found at the back of the mansion, and accessed either through the Back Gate, or by going out the back door of the mansion from the Library.

A map of the Gargoyle Garden

I mapped the place out, and it is pleasantly skull-shaped. I didn't find anything of particular use here, but what I did find were a number of ways to die.

The most prominent of these is the wolf. There are two areas in the garden which are described as "meadows", and it will always be noted that you can see something moving about in the grass. Enter either of those meadows, and you'll be eaten instantly. Perhaps there's a way to kill these wolves, but I haven't tried anything yet. I suspect it's not necessary.

There are also three Witching Wells, and you can climb down them. Two of them are too slippery to climb back out of, and I never figured out how to escape once I was down there. The other one has hand-holds and can be climbed out of, but all I found down there was a note that had the same message I've seen elsewhere (a reminder that you can type the first letter of a direction instead of typing GO NORTH). I tried to make a wish, but the game doesn't recognise WISH, so alas that idea was a bust.

There are two ponds that you can enter, but the sides are too steep to get back out again. Luckily, each of the bridges has a magic word written on it, something along the lines of WOMIX or WIMOH (they change with every game). If you type in these words you'll be teleported to the Dense Woods, which is the only way of escaping.

There are two Foul Fountains, but they've both dried up. It's possible that something can be done here, but the parser doesn't recognise FOUNTAIN, so I think these are just for decoration.

There are two characters wandering around the garden, a Gardener and an Elf. The Gardener is much like the other NPCs in the game, and you can question him for clues about the murder. The Elf is more irritating. He sneers at your questions, and has a habit of kicking you in the shins or stealing something from your inventory. I haven't tried to kill him yet, but it's very tempting. (Actually, I'm not sure if you can kill the NPCs. I've been attacked and wounded by the Warrior, and I've fought the Dwarf in the maze a few times, but all I was ever able to do was drive him away. The combat system remains a mystery to me.)

There's a note near the Veranda that says that the Garden closes at sunset, so I'm pretty sure there's a time limit for getting things done here. I honestly don't know if its necessary to explore the garden, unless the murder victim and/or the murder weapon are placed there.

Next time around I'll explore the area under the front porch, and try to get rid of the werewolf that's under there. After that, it'll be time to start figuring out some puzzles and putting together a run where I can get all of the points (if possible).

I just killed the Vampire! I was right in my last post, all you need to do is lure him from the Crypt in the basement up to a room on the ground floor, then open the curtains.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Game 27: Mystery Mansion (1978)

The next game on my list is Mystery Mansion, which was programmed by Bill Wolpert for the HP-1000 minicomputer. I'm not exactly sure if this system is comparable to PLATO or the PDP-10 (I'm really not a hardware guy), but the prospect of venturing back into the world of non-commercial adventure games was making me very nervous. I was not prepared for another Acheton, or even another Zork, as much as I loved playing the latter. Games of that size are not what I'm looking for right now, and I was worried that Mystery Mansion would be one of those.

I'm pleased to say that it's not over-large. More accurately, I don't think it's over-large based on what I've explored so far. I don't think size is going to be the problem here. What's really going to stop me in my tracks is just how little the game does to let you know what the goal is.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. The first thing to determine when playing Mystery Mansion is what version to use. The original is out of my reach, as I'm not really up to getting a HP-1000 emulator up and running (guess what, I'm not a software guy either). There are a few different ports, which Jason Dyer helpfully outlines here. I chose the version ported by Terry Newton, which claims to be a "practically exact" port of the game as it was in 1981. Not having ever played the original, I can't tell how close it is, but it runs fine in Dosbox and feels authentic enough to the period. Download it here if you'd like to take a crack.

As you might have guessed from that 1981 date above, this is yet another game that was developed over the course of several years. I've often lamented that these games are often not available in their original forms, but recently I've come around to the idea that those earlier versions were much like today's alpha and beta tests. It may not strictly be true, but it helps me sleep easier at night. With this in mind I considered kicking the game back to 1981, but I've already set the precedent of playing these games in their first year of development. So Mystery Mansion is stuck in 1978, and I'm stuck playing it.

Lust? Whatever you say, Bill.
First off, let's really take in that start screen, because it's setting my expectations of what I'll experience while playing very high. Frustration? Definitely. Triumph? I sure hope so. Hope and despair? Conceivable. Power, lust and greed? I'll give you power and greed as possibilities, but lust? Mr. Wolpert, I can tell you right now that it ain't happening.

When the game begins, you're standing at the front gate of an old mansion. A taxi has just dropped you off, although the game doesn't bother to let you know why you're there. On my first attempt, I noted the highway leading south, and decided to see what would happen if I just kept on walking away from the mansion. Much to my surprise, I could keep walking south for a long time, with signs appearing occasionally to let me know how close I was to the mansion and the "Big City". After a time, the sun set and I was walking in the dark. A little further down the road and I heard an explosion, which sounded like the passages underneath the mansion had collapsed. (Pretty good hearing on my part, considering I was at least 30 miles away.) Eventually, after what must have been hundreds of moves to the south, I was told that the game was giving up on me. It was a game over, but I'd gleaned some valuable information: there's a limited time to explore the caves beneath the mansion, and probably a limited time to complete the game.

The death screen indicated that the game has a score, so upon reloading I entered the SCORE command. The game has 999 points that can be earned, and you begin with 45. Commenter Jason Dyer has informed me that I need to type SCORE POINTS every time I hear a woman scream or a wolf howl in order to score 2 points. I'm grateful for the help, but right off the bat this has me expecting some egregious bullshit from this game. Because let's be real, that right there is some egregious bullshit.

I also tried checking my inventory, another thing I always do at the start of a game. The INVENTORY command didn't work, but LIST did, as did BOOTY. My inventory was empty however.

To begin the game, I started by exploring the areas surrounding the mansion.

A map of the outdoors

The first thing that should be noted is that although the game does call out items and characters that can be interacted with, you also need to pay attention to the room descriptions. There's the lantern in the opening area, for instance: it's only mentioned in the room description, and it's vital for making any progress.

The area I've mapped above represents the road that goes around the mansion walls. The front gate is closed, and the back gate leads into a garden (which I haven't explored properly yet). There are cliffs to the east and north, which are predictably fatal if you decide to head that way. To the west is a dense wood, which is pretty easy to get lost in. I tried mapping it by dropping items, but I couldn't make sense of the results. I think the exits might be randomised. Moving around in the woods will eventually lead to a Strange Stream. Heading down from the stream leads to a cave, with "twisty passages, all alike", which is always a triggering phrase for me. More on that later. Heading up leads to a cottage which contains a map, which can be used to see the destinations of every exit from the room you're in. Alas, it only works in the outdoor areas, but it's great for getting you out of the woods.

At this point I should note that Mystery Mansion uses the same irritating navigation style as The Cottage: when you're outside you can use cardinal directions (N,E,S,W), but when you're in the forest or the mansion you have to go Forward, Left, Right or Back. It's very disorienting, and very, very annoying. Thankfully you can find a compass, which allows you to use cardinal directions everywhere.

There's a note pinned to the mansion's front gate, which gives you a hint. These notes will appear in various locations, and seem to be scattered at random, but there's always one on the gate. Most of the time it will tell you that someone will help you open the gate. There are three characters wandering around in the opening area: a Hunter, a Woodsman and a Warrior. They will follow you about once you encounter them, although they won't enter the mansion. Any one of them will help you open the gate.

It's easy enough from there to enter the mansion, but you shouldn't linger on the front porch. If you wait around for too long (and it tracks actual time, not just commands entered) you'll fall through to some underground tunnels. I've fallen in there a couple of times, and been killed by a werewolf.

The mansion has three levels, as shown below:

A map of the mansion

Each level of the mansion is structured in a neat 3x3 pattern. Most of the rooms in the mansion are dark, which is why you'll need the lantern to proceed (although the candles in the Chapel and the matches in the Kitchen are a short-term alternative; you can't take the lamp from the Living Room, although you can light it with a match). There are various items scattered about, though I haven't found a use for most of them. There are also several characters: the Butler, Cook, Maid, Lady and Master, as well as the Vampire in the crypt.

The compass, which I mentioned before, can be found in the Haunted Hallway on the top floor. (I have no idea why it wasn't already marked on the map.) The scroll in the Library crumbles whenever it's touched, but the book can be read. It reveals the verbs that the game understands, showing a different verb with every game. I just tried it now, and it says "THE BOOK CONTAINS WORDS I KNOW LIKE THE VERB DIG". None of these have been too helpful yet, but they were perhaps more useful to people at the time, who may have been less familiar with adventure games.

The telephone in the entrance hall rings occasionally, and if you answer it you'll receive a hint. It will always ring and tell you to return to the front gate for the lamp if you forgot to take it.

The Secret Passages are the easiest way to navigate up and down between floors, and there are certain areas you can only get to by passing through them. Each room connected to a Secret Passage has a hidden method that opens the way in. Some examples include drinking the wine in the Charming Chapel, sweeping the Haunted Hallway with a broom, or feeding bananas to the monkey in the Butler's Room.

The Cold Corridor off to the left in the basement is a trap, with a moving wall that will crush you. I haven't worked out what to do here. The tunnel leading down from the Dark Pit is another entrance to the maze of twisty passages.

The Vampire in the crypt will kill you pretty quickly after you encounter him, unless you are carrying the cross from the Chapel. Otherwise, he follows you around but does no harm. I haven't killed him yet, but I suspect that if I lead him up to the ground floor and open some curtains it might do the trick.

As for the other characters roaming the house, they will happily follow you as well. After some experimentation I figured out that you can QUESTION them, and they'll give you clue about a supposed murder. There are three clues: the culprit, the murder weapon, and the location. You can also find out the identity of the murderer by turning on the radio in the Game Room.

There is always a corpse in the murder location. The weapons are scattered around the game, but they aren't always in the same place. The goal of the game, or one of the goals, is to find the weapon, and lead the murderer to the place where they did the deed. I managed to do this by accident, which was how I was able to figure out what to do in the first place. In later games I found a note that told me about this, but the first time around I had to stumble into it.

It was the Master, in the cellar, with the club. I knew it all along.

After identifying the murderer, I eventually found another note telling me that I should call the police. This game might be mystifying at the start, but it does provide help here and there. If you call the police on the phone, they'll come and arrest the murderer.

The only other place I've properly explored is the maze of twisty passages, which was nowhere near as large as its counterparts from Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork.

A map of twisty passages, all alike

This maze only has six rooms, thankfully, but it can be difficult to navigate if you don't have the compass. The torch is a light source that eventually burns out, and the battery can be used to extend the life of your lantern. Both of them are placed randomly in the maze, in different areas every game.

I've solved one of the larger problems of Mystery Mansion, but that only left me with 332 points. This means I've only figured out one-third of the game. I suspect that the rest might involve hunting down some treasures, but I only say that because it's the goal of every other damn game I've played so far. My immediate goals are to properly explore the garden and the tunnels beneath the porch. There's a werewolf down there, and I've got a pistol and silver bullet ready to go. Hopefully I can figure out what to do pretty soon, because I don't want to spend much more time with this game.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Treasure Hunt: Victory!

I covered most of what Treasure Hunt has to offer in my last post, and I'd hoped that it would be a one-post game. Lord knows I need a lot of those if I'm ever going to make any progress on my list. I just couldn't beat the game in time. I had located all of the treasures, solved every puzzle, and pinpointed every danger, but there was one small thing that was stopping me from achieving my goal.

The magic carpet. For some reason, it would randomly disappear whenever I was carrying it. I'd pick it up, move towards the exit cave, and POOF! It would vanish. Initially I had thought that it would reappear in a different cave, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't. Once it's gone, it's gone for good, and the game becomes unwinnable.

As I was playing the game I realised that, as with most computer-based "randomisation", it's not truly random at all. When you run Treasure Hunt, the objects in the first game you play will always be in the same locations. The second game will have them in different locations, as will the third, and so on, but the layouts always run in the same sequence every time you run the game from scratch. So the first game is always the same, as is the second, and every game on down the line.

The magic carpet is always in Cave 30 on the first game, so I spent a lot of time repeatedly going to that cave and trying to get it to the exit. I never managed it, although I did get it to Cave 1 on a couple of frustrating occasions. I also couldn't figure out a pattern to the disappearances, and a look at the game's source code left me none the wiser. It was beginning to look like I'd have to stretch this to a three-post game, somehow.

That's when I remembered that I had played an earlier game where the magic carpet was in a cave not far from the entrance. So I started cycling through games, exploring the first few caves and quitting if I didn't find it. Eventually I found a game where the carpet was in Cave 3. Very nervously I picked it up, and moved to Cave 1, dreading the POOF message that I was sure would come. It didn't, and the carpet stayed in my possession. I half expected it to vanish out of my inventory in Cave 0, but it stayed there as well, and I was finally able to deposit the magic carpet safely, much to my great relief.

From there, it was a simple matter to hoover up the rest of the treasures, avoiding the pits and the pirate, and admire my complete collection.

It was relieving to finally finish the game, but I will admit that I was disappointed that it doesn't acknowledge the victory at all. I don't think I missed anything, unless there's a way to kill the pirate. Regardless, I would have liked some sort of affirmation. I could use the ego boost.

Treasure Hunt was an interesting look into a branch of adventure gaming that didn't really take off. I'm not sure that there was much else that could be done with such a format, though, as it's very limiting. I enjoyed it for what it was, at least up to the point where the disappearing carpet started to get on my nerves. Time for a Final Rating.

Story & Setting: This is 1978, so naturally this game has you hunting for treasure in some caves. Neither the story nor the setting gets more fleshed out than that, so I have to give it the minimum rating. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: Again, this game is very minimal when it comes to the creatures and characters you meet. There's a dragon, a pirate, a wizard, a bat, and an invisible man searching for an invisible dog. You can't really interact with any of them, aside from solving their puzzles or getting killed by them. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: It's a text-based game, with very minimal descriptions. Admittedly, sparse descriptions serve the kind of game it is quite well, but it still doesn't make for an aesthetically pleasing game. It's also full of spelling errors, which I find baffling considering just how little text it features. My computer made all sorts of horrible screeching noises for as long as I had the sound turned up while playing. I'm not sure if this was part of the game, or part of the TRS emulation, but it wasn't pleasant. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Mechanics: The game is mechanically very simple, but those mechanics do exactly what they're meant to do. I think the word "adequate" sums it up pretty perfectly. Rating: 3 out of 7.

Challenge: After the initial phase of mapping and experimenting with the game's various dangers, it's pretty easy. If it wasn't for the disappearing magic carpet, I would have finished it in a couple of hours. That carpet, though, has to bump the score down, as it makes the game simultaneously too easy and too frustrating. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: Treasure Hunt seems to have been lost to time, so it's influence is effectively nothing. I suppose it's mildly innovative in that it develops on the framework of Hunt the Wumpus while adding adventure game elements, but there's not a lot here that wasn't in that earlier game. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Fun: I was mildly amused and distracted by this, and I did enjoy the process of mapping out the caves and figuring out the areas I should avoid. That carpet really sucked the joy out of things though. Rating: 2 out of 7.

This game doesn't get the bonus point, as I'll never play it again. The above scores total 13, which doubled gives a Final Rating of 26. This puts it very low in the rankings, down in the mix with several of Greg Hassett's adventure games. The only games lower are King Tut's Tomb Adventure and Library, both of which were buggy or unfinished. Treasure Hunt is more polished than most of the games around it, but it loses out due to simplicity and it's questionable adventure game status.

Next: My next game is Mystery Mansion, which I'm rather dismayed to see is another mainframe adventure game. I'm hoping against hope that it's smaller than Zork, Acheton, and its other contemporaries.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Game 26: Treasure Hunt (1978)

In choosing to write about CRPGs and adventure games for this blog, I've cast a wide net. Both of those genres are vast, and both of them have boundaries that can best be classed as "fuzzy". In making up a list that covers everything in both genres, there are going to be games that are questionable, because what it is exactly that defines an adventure game or a CRPG is up for debate.

The subject of this post is Treasure Hunt, a 1978 game created by Lance Micklus. Although Micklus was definitely inspired by Colossal Cave Adventure (citing it as an influence on his later game Dog Star Adventure), Treasure Hunt bears very little resemblance to that game. Instead it draws heavily on Hunt the Wumpus, a 1972 game that saw the player navigating a series of caves while trying to pinpoint the titular Wumpus and kill it with an arrow. Treasure Hunt is like a larger version of Hunt the Wumpus, with more dangers and 20 treasures to collect. There is no text parser, simply a series of prompts that are answered with numbers corresponding to the cave you want to enter, or a simple yes/no response. As such, its status as an adventure game is debatable. I think it qualifies. Yes, the interface is basic, but it does have an environment to explore and puzzles to solve. What else do you want?

Treasure Hunt was apparently available in 1978, but I haven't been able to turn up an image of its packaging, or any sort of instructions. It doesn't even have a page on MobyGames. The only evidence of its existence (aside from the game itself) seems to be a short write-up about it in SoftSide Magazine.

The version I'm playing is for the TRS-80, emulated using TRS32 for a decently authentic experience.

The game is set in the Lumus Caves, near Lumusville, Vermont (not a real place as far as I can tell). Scattered throughout the caves are 20 treasures that must be collected and dropped off at the cave entrance. As the screenshot says, there is indeed a dragon, as well as a pirate and a number of deadly pits. It also mentions a map, which the game apparently shipped with. I don't have that, and I declined to use the one made by Jason Dyer over at I was going to be mapping this bad boy all by myself.

The bulk of the gameplay consists of navigating from one cave to another searching for treasure. There are 95 caves in total, numbered from 0 to 94, with 0 being the exit/entrance. Each cave lists the other caves it's connected to by number, and when prompted you move by typing the number of the cave you want to go to next.

There are dangers, of course, such as the aforementioned dragon, pirate and pits. Whenever you're in a cave that's adjacent to one of these dangers, you will get a warning. By paying attention to which caves have warning messages, you can pinpoint where the dangers are located and avoid them. As long as you're paying attention, that is.

The treasures are scattered all over the map, and their locations are different every time you play (as are the locations of everything else in the game). You can only carry three items at a time, which makes collecting them all a little difficult. There's also the fact that some items are required to solve various puzzles, and that once you've dropped them off at the entrance you can't pick them up again. A big part of Treasure Hunt is figuring out which items these are, and learning not to collect them until much later in the game. The twenty treasures are as follows: a $1000 bill, a black book, a diamond, some elf food, an emerald, some furs, gold coins, a gold watch, a golden harp, jewelry, keys, a magic carpet, a necklace, an old clock, an old gun, a pearl, a ruby, a silver bell, a sword, and a wand. You can leave the game from the exit at any point, keeping any treasures you've collected. I have no idea if it does anything special when you obtain all 20.

I'll outline the various dangers and puzzles below, along with their solutions. There's no trick to solving the puzzles, you just need to have the right item in your inventory.

  • The aforementioned pits are lethal, and there's no way to stop yourself from dying if you fall into one. There are three of them, and the only thing to do is note their locations,and avoid them.
  • Similarly, the pirate is best avoided. I tried killing him with the sword or the gun, but neither worked. If you encounter him he will steal whatever treasures you're carrying and move to another cave. I'm not sure if those treasures are scattered or just gone for good.
  • There's a giant bat that sometimes grabs you and drops you in another cave, scattering whatever you were carrying to various locations. As far as I can tell, the bat is a random occurrence. I haven't had this happen to me very often.
  • An earthquake occasionally rocks the cave, changing the locations of various things. It's a real pain, as you have to explore all over again.
  • The dragon will kill you if you encounter it, but you can kill it with the old gun (not the sword as I'd originally hoped). When you do, it drops a "little back book"...

Vermont. I love how ultra-specific and mundane this is.

  • There's one area surrounded by danger signs. If you pass through it, there's a chance the roof will collapse and kill you.
  • Your flashlight has a limited charge, and will eventually run out. To get some batteries, you need to find the gold coins and take them to the vending machine. You'll be able to buy batteries with a single coin, which doesn't use up or devalue that treasure at all.
  • Occasionally an "Invisible Man" will pop up wherever you are, asking for the location of his invisible dog. As with lots of other things in Treasure Hunt, you'll be notified of the dog's presence when you're in a cave adjacent to it, as you can hear it barking. If you tell the invisible man where his dog is, he leaves you with the $1000 bill.
  • There's also a wizard, whose location is marked by "strange mist". If you can tell him where his magic book is, he'll reward you with a golden harp. If you give him the wrong location he'll kill you, and if you try to take the book with you you will also die.
  • There's a locked box that's too heavy to take with you, but it can be unlocked with the key. It contains the ruby.
  • The sword is stuck in a rock, and can't be removed. To get it, you need the magic wand.

The first thing I did when starting the game was map the caves. At first I was simply noting down the cave numbers, followed by the numbers of each connecting cave, as follows:


Eventually, I noticed a pattern. All of the caves up to a certain point connect to the cave that is double their number, and the cave one higher than that. So Cave 1 connects to caves 2 and 3. Cave 8 connects to Caves 16 and 17. Once I'd spotted this, making a map was pretty simple.

Sorry this is so small, but it gives an idea of the general layout. The map wraps around, so that Caves 32 and 64 connect up. The entrance cave (0) connects to Caves 1 and 94.

With a map made, and a list of every item, danger and special location in the game, it was time to try and collect all of the treasures. I almost did it on my first try; it's not that hard when you know the items to avoid collecting early (the coins, the keys, the gun and the wand). I collected 19 of the treasures, but one item kept on thwarting me: the magic carpet.

For some reason I can't figure out, the magic carpet keeps disappearing on me. Every time I try and get it to the exit it just vanishes into thin air. I haven't been able to figure out why it does this, or how to stop it, but it's happened in every game I've played. My hope is that it reappears in another location, but so far I haven't found it after it's vanished. It's very frustrating.

I took a look at Jason Dyer's posts on Treasure Hunt to see if he figured out the magic carpet thing. He beat the game, and mentioned that the carpet disappears sometimes. For me, it's been every time. At the moment I'm just playing repeatedly, hoping that I'll eventually get a game where the carpet stays in my possession. It obviously happened for Jason, but I'm wondering if there's some trick to it that he lucked into without realising. If there is, I sure don't know about it.

I'd hoped that this would be a one-post game, but no such luck there. Hopefully I'll be able to beat it by next weekend, but unless I can solve this carpet problem it ain't going to happen. I'm really reluctant to postpone victory for two games in a row, so if I can't figure it out I might be on Treasure Hunt for a really long time.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

MUD1: Postponed Victory.

And so, as promised, I come to the end of this blog's overlong involvement with MUD1. I never intended to spend so long playing it, and I certainly never intended to take a ten-month break between posts. Still, real life can be hard sometimes, and virtual life can sometimes be more enjoyable than you expect it to be. MUD1 was certainly far more involving than I was prepared for, even as a single player game, and I got caught up in trying to probe its every secret. It's well past time to move on though, as far as the blog is concerned, even though I'll still be playing it on my own time.

I had a few goals laid out for myself at the end of the last post, and I managed to tick all of them off. There are still two major obstacles in the game that I can't get past, but for the moment I'm completely stuck with them, and will probably remain so unless I can get some hints from another friendly player. I'll go through my goals one by one below.

1. Get past the gate in the tunnel leading from the beach.

The southern beach (the one you can only reach by jumping from the cliff with an umbrella) has a tunnel leading into the cliff. The tunnel is blocked by a gate that can't be opened by a single player. I took the most simple and direct solution to this problem: I created a second character and had them both running in the game at the same time. With the help of Kejakena, I was able to lift the gate and explore beyond.

I forgot that I had no light source the first time I did this.

There wasn't a lot to see, just a single cave where a pirate had stored some treasure: some pieces of eight, a sack full of doubloons, and a bottle of rum. All of these can be swamped for points, although the rum isn't worth anything until you take a drink. Doing so can make you drunk, and liable to move strangely or fall asleep at random for a little while, but one swig isn't too bad.

Later on I found an alternate solution to this puzzle: zapping the gate with a wand. The wand is the most useful tool in the game, but you can't use it effectively until you reach the level of Enchanter (at around 12,000 points). Before that level, you can wave it in an emergency, and it will teleport you out of danger. Doing so makes it disappear though, so it's really a last resort. Once you reach Enchanter though, you can start using the ZAP command on just about anything. Mostly it's good for killing monsters instantly, but it can also blow up most doors and gates. It sure beats typing UNLOCK DOOR WITH KEY followed by OPEN DOOR every time.

The gate mentioned above can be zapped in this manner, but doing so teleports you away to the house. Luckily, zapping gates doesn't make the wand disappear, and it's easy enough to get back and loot the place.

2. Open the gate in the Dwarf Realm.

This was one of the tasks I never completed. At the top of the Dwarf Citadel is a gate, with an inscription that tells you it will open if you "drop the key on me". I tried dropping keys in that area. I tried giving keys to the dwarves that roam around. I tried playing the flute and the violin, hoping a musical key might be the answer. Nothing worked.

I was able to get through in a later game, though. When I logged in another player had been through the game and looted just about everything. They had also left the gate open, so I went through and mapped the place out. What I found was a load of dwarven barracks and guard rooms, as well as a throne room and some treasure chambers. All of them were empty of both dwarves and treasure, but I have an inkling that there would be plenty of both if I ever managed to be the first one in here after a game reset.

Not the kind of throne I was talking about.

3. Explore the island to the south of the wrecked galleon.

South of the wrecked galleon is a small island called the Isle of Woe. It's easy enough to reach using the boat. The island is dominated by a huge arch, which you have to walk through to get to the southern area. There you'll find an effigy, which can be swamped for points.

The game makes it seem like walking through the arch could have major consequences, but I never figured out what they might be. The only thing I noticed was that the command prompt changed from "*" to "(*)". I'm sure there was some negative effect, but it's got me stumped.

Note the changed command prompt at the bottom. I still don't know what it means.

4. Figure out the mystery of the sliding panel rooms.

South of the goblin lairs are a pair of rooms with sliding panels. I never figured out the solution to this legitimately, and I'm thinking it might be one of those puzzles you can only solve with more than one player. Instead, I zapped one of the panels to smithereens and gained access to a "Blue Room" where I found a sapphire and an ornament. Swamped them both, of course.

That KAZAM was pretty satisfying.

5. Solve the mystery of the brass ring.

As mentioned in my last post, slipping a fossilized finger bone into the ring lifted the magic holding it down, and turned the brass ring to gold. It's one of the more valuable treasures, too.

6. Enter the tomb in the graveyard.

Deep in the graveyard is a tomb that can apparently be pried open. There's no great mystery or puzzle here, you just need something strong enough like an axe. The tomb leads down to a room with a statue in it, and a tunnel heading south. When I went south, though, I was immediately torn apart by ghouls.

The trick to getting past lay in the statue. Whenever you look at the room, the statue's eye colour is mentioned, but it changes every time, cycling through the following colours with no seeming pattern: red, blue, yellow, green, and emerald. When the statue's eyes are red, you can get past the ghouls safely. There are clues about this written on a curtain in the temple below the yew tree.

Beyond is a room with a collapsed grave above. It also contains a golden disc and an old leg, both of which can be taken. The disc is worth points, and the leg can be used to solve another puzzle. The room also has a chute that leads into the temple beneath the yew tree, but you can't take any items through it with you. I tried dropping items into the chute, but that didn't work either.

You need to get back out through the tomb door, but the ghouls will tear you apart on the way back as well. Taking the statue with you is a simple solution, as you can always set it down and look at the eye colour. The statue can also be swamped, and its value is different depending on its eye colour at the time. It's worth the most when the eyes are emerald.

7. Get past the ogre.

There's an ogre in the cave near the swamp, and he'll squash you flat if you try to fight him bare-handed or to get past him. He'll happily accept the leg from the tomb as a gift, though, and will ignore you while he munches away on it. I also discovered later that you can zap him into oblivion, and that attacking with pretty much any weapon will give you an instant kill. This even works with the pickaxe. Apparently the ogre has no understanding of weapons beyond his own club, so he's easy to kill.

Past the ogre is a single cave where a leprechaun guards a pot of gold. He won't let you take the pot, and he doesn't accept any gifts or food that I could figure out. Eventually I tried just taking him, and much to my delight I was able to stuff him under my arm despite his protests. He can be swamped for points along with his gold, which seems cruel but is probably a just fate for any leprechaun.

I have Irish ancestry, so this is a racial stereotype I'm allowed to enjoy.

8. Explore the north-west island.

The island to the north-west is the other area of the game that I'm stuck on. Getting there is a little difficult. There's a chart with directions in the wrecked galleon, but one of those directions isn't given, and you have to guess. I figured it out through trial and error, as well as a lot of wrecked boats, and was soon on the island reading the following sign:

It's not wrong about dropping the boat; if you enter the water from anywhere other than this beach it's game over. As for the rest, it's a warning about a dragon, and a hint that it can be killed if you feed it something.

Said dragon flies around over the island, and will eventually swoop down and mangle you in combat. I never came even close to defeating it, and running away gets you instantly incinerated. The wand doesn't work on it either. Whatever you have to feed the dragon, it has the letter C as its first or second letter (I think). I've tried an acorn, a piece of coal, and a cross. None of them worked. (I was especially confident about the cross, because it's been warped by a great heat when you find it.) I've given up on this for the moment, as any experimentation here is a suicide mission. As with the dwarven gate, I'm hoping for a friendly player to help me out.

The island itself is dominated by a ring of stones, with a slab that can seemingly be moved. Scattered around the island are various items: a sickle, a chalice, an acorn, a broadsword and a bell. There's also a fairy ring with a poisoned toadstool. The whole set-up seems to hint at something druidic, and I suspect I might have to perform a ritual or a sacrifice of some sort to open the slab. It's not happening until I can kill that dragon though.

One of many ignominious deaths.

I also mentioned in my last post that I had transformed the ox into a worthless statue by hugging it. After some experimentation I figured this out. In the cave near the swamp there's a sacrificial altar, but the ox can't be dragged in there. You can get it in there after hugging it, though, and hugging it again brings it back to life. Then you have to sacrifice it and hug it again, which turns it into a golden statue. It's totally logical!

I also found some uses for the cat who is found in the Sorcerer's Room. Firstly, it eats the rats in the cellar, which can be very helpful when you're lower level. There are a lot of those things. Secondly, you can earn points if you kill the cat nine times and then eat it. It's just one of the sick, twisted acts that this game rewards.

In a nest above the secluded cove where the boat is found, I discovered a golden egg with a flame pattern etched on it. Once you take the egg you can't drop it, and you also can't pick up any other items. It can't be dropped in the swamp, but it gives plenty of hints that it needs to be dropped somewhere hot. Eventually I figured out that it needs to go in the fiery pit past the wolf, an area that had previously seemed a bit pointless.

I did some more reading up on the game, looking for a way to kill the dragon. I didn't find that, but what I did discover is that the swamp is also a maze. You can't map it with the usual method of dropping items, because they will disappear. But you can do it with multiple players, apparently. The reward at the end is a crown, which I hear is the most valuable treasure in the game. I might have to make some more guys and give this a try.

Similarly, you can apparently get some treasure by having three characters meditate simultaneously in the Shrine, the Sacred Chamber and the Ancient Chamber. This is another one I'll have to give a shot.

The last thing I set out to discover was the "reset button". During one of my first games of MUD1, a friendly player named Saruman took me under his wing and showed me a lot about the game as he was looting everything in sight. The last thing he did was summon me to a ledge overlooking the Dwarf Realm. After explaining that he'd swamped pretty much all of the treasure, he showed me a button that would reset the game back to its default state. I pressed it, and it did exactly that.

I hadn't been able to find it since. I thought it might be accessed through the Dwarf Realm, but I didn't find anything when I mapped the place. The other likely locations were the narrow cracks in the mines, which can only be accessed if you're not carrying anything. There turned out to be three of these areas, and mapping them with no light was a difficult task. One of them simply led to a "Doom Room", which was seemingly inescapable. Another just seemed to loop around, leading nowhere, but when I went through and typed GET ALL in every location I found a wand and a piece of tin ore. I couldn't move while carrying them, but I was able to wave the wand and teleport out with the ore. The wand disappeared though, so I'm not sure if or how it can be kept.

The third of the narrow cracks was a long, linear path, and it eventually led to the ledge I had been summoned to so long ago. I tried hitting the reset button, but it wouldn't let me reset the game as there was someone else playing at the same time. It makes me question this button's utility, because the game resets pretty quickly if there's nobody playing. You can quit and come back in a minute or so, and the game is back to its default state. Perhaps it was more useful back in the old days?

That leaves me with just one thing to discuss: becoming a Witch or Wizard. This is the ultimate goal of the game, and you need around 104,000 points to do it. From what I've read, doing so grants you immortality and a number of other powers. I'm pretty sure they can turn invisible; I've been trolled by mysterious voices more than once. Anyway, I'm trying to make Wizard as my ultimate goal with this game. It should be doable as long as I can avoid being killed by other players, but I've heard that once you reach the rank of Legend at about 50,000 points treasures are worth far less. This is apparently to encourage earning points through killing other players, which I gather was a large part of the experience. I've tasted a little of that, but I'm not really game to try it again. I don't relish killing low-level players, and I don't like the idea of being murdered when I'm close to my goal. I'll stick to treasure hunting, and take the long, safe road to Wizard.

With that, there's nothing left but to give this game a Final Rating. It should be noted here that I'm playing the version of this game available at British Legends, which is from 1987. It's probably more advanced than the 1978 game, but a look at the original source code shows that the content is pretty much the same.

Story & Setting: There's no story to this game, as a single player experience; it's a simple treasure hunt much like most other adventure games of the era. As a multi-player experience, I imagine that all sorts of emergent story-telling was happening, as well as organised events. As for the setting, the Land is evocative and mysterious, and is put together in a way that everything fits and makes sense. None of it is explicitly tied together, but it's all there in such a way that I couldn't help but make connections, and exploring the Land has been a joy. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: A lot of characters and monsters roam the Land. Some are combat obstacles, such as the dryad, the rats, the zombies and the skeletons. Others are involved in puzzles, like the ox, the beggar and the ogre. Pretty much all of them can be killed though, and they're all worth points in one form or another. None of them really come alive as characters though, and the combat isn't varied enough to make them stand out either. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: As usual, I have to knock this down for being a text adventure. I'm also tempted to dock it for the WizTerm client's ugly cyan background, but that's no fault of the original game. What it lacks in visuals, though, it makes up for with atmospheric writing that gives it a real sense of place. I mentioned before that I enjoyed exploring this game, and that wouldn't have been possible without the quality of prose. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Mechanics: As a text adventure this game does okay, although it's nowhere near as advanced in this regard as Zork. Most of the impressive features of this game come from its multiplayer aspect, of which I sadly only brushed the surface. It should also be given some props for its magic system, something else I didn't get to try out much. Rating: 4 out of 7.

Challenge: I found this game difficult at first, but was able to gradually solve most of the puzzles through trial and error (and some help from my commenters with the Mausoleum). Most of the solutions were refreshingly logical, especially in comparison to most of the other adventures around at the time. I always had something to do, and it's only now after weeks of solid playing that I'm stuck. The only sore point I have is the possibility of being ganked by other players, but I guess that's intended as a feature rather than a bug. Rating: 5 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: As the very first MUD - and the game that the entire genre is named after - I have to mark it high. It's also the first ever multi-player game on the internet, as in 1983 Essex University allowed remote access to their DEC-10 mainframe between 2 am and 7 am. Any way you slice it, MUD1 is a huge part of gaming history and I have to give it top marks here. Rating: 7 out of 7.

Fun: Here's how you know I've enjoyed MUD1: I'm still playing it. It took me a bit to warm up to it though, as the multiplayer aspect was a turn-off. Once I got going though I was really sucked in. At the moment it's gotten a little rote, though. I'm stuck with the puzzles and am pretty much grinding for points. Still, it has enough content to amuse anyone who likes old-school adventure games for a week or two, as long as they don't mind having no particular goal. Rating: 4 out of 7.

I am definitely awarding the bonus point to MUD1, as I'm still happily plugging away at it. The above scores add up to 26, which doubled gives a Final Rating of 52. That puts it at a very respectable third overall, and would place it second on the charts for both adventure games and RPGs. (It could go in either, but its RPG elements are about equal to those of Zork, albeit with a far more overt Dungeons & Dragons influence.) I think that's a fair rating, it's up there with Zork and The Game of Dungeons v5 as games I've legitimately enjoyed.

Next: My next target is a text adventure called Treasure Hunt, by Lance Micklus. It apparently draws a lot from Hunt the Wumpus, so it will at least be something a little different for the genre. I might be able to knock it off in a single post as well, if I'm lucky. Time to fire up the old TRS-80 emulator!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

MUD1: Little Specks

I know that I promised that my next post would be my final one for MUD1, but I've only just started exploring the north-west island. It's very mysterious and intriguing, so I'm still playing. I also don't have much time or energy for a full post, so here are some minor tidbits that I've discovered:

  • There's a seagull fluttering around near the beach at the bottom of the waterfall. If you wash it in the birdbath it turns to solid gold and can be swamped for points.
  • There's a sundial in the pine forest, but it has no gnomon. If you put a stick on it, then TELL TIME, it zaps you with some energy and increases your score.
  • There's an Ox wandering around the Land, and for some reason hugging it turns it into a worthless statue. I'm not sure how to give it some value.
  • I'd been puzzled for a while by a hole in the ground, but it turns out it's just a rabbit burrow, and putting a rabbit in it earns you some points.
  • Another thing that had puzzled me for ages was a golden bolt that was stuck in the railroad track. A strong lever was required to pull it out, and on a whim I tried my axe. It worked, to my surprise. The pickaxe works as well. It's weird when real-world logic triumphs in an adventure game.
  • I've mentioned before that there was a pancake in the larder that was stuck to its pan by magic. I tried flipping it, which I was able to do, and again I earned some more points.
  • I also mentioned a brass ring that I couldn't lift due to a magical force. Elsewhere there's a secret room that can be opened by blowing a conch, and in the room is a finger bone. Stick the finger in the brass ring and it turns gold and can be taken and - of course - swamped for points.
  • I found a statue of a lion in the pine forest that I'd somehow missed. There's a sign not far from it that says it will point the way if dropped in the "garden of the dead". Sure enough, if you drop it in the graveyard it will direct you to the tomb.
  • Speaking of the tomb, it can be pried open with the axe or the pickaxe. I think I've explored it fully, but more on that next time.
  • Finally, with the help of commenter PK Thunder who told me that the relevant quote was "for all intents and purposes", I was able to figure out that the answer to open the west tomb was 1547. Inside I found a sarcophagus and a firestone. The firestone can be used a light source (much safer to carry around than the torch), and apparently makes you immune to being summoned by other players. The sarcophagus contains a body that can be swamped for points.
That's all I have time for at the moment. I should be back with a post in a week or so, and hopefully I'll have explored the north-western island. There's just the matter of the pesky dragon that keeps incinerating me...