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Exploring Zork, Part 3

22 Jan

Today we’ll finish up with Zork. That means plunging into the only big, completely traditional maze in the Infocom canon. And it’s a nasty one; apparently they decided that if you’re only going to do one, you might as well do it up right.

In keeping with the thief’s role as a stand-in for Adventure‘s pirate, the maze is where he has his lair. This fact, even more than its sheer size, is the root of its difficulty: as you wander about inside dropping items and mapping, chances are good that the thief will show up to scatter your carefully placed items about and leave you hopefully confused. Like the combat sequences, success here requires luck and careful saving and restoring more than skill. Nowhere else does Zork so thoroughly justify Robb Sherwin’s statement that it “hates its player.”

Within the maze is the “CYCLOPS ROOM.”

>SE
CYCLOPS ROOM
THIS ROOM HAS AN EXIT ON THE NORTHWEST,
AND A STAIRCASE LEADING UP.
A CYCLOPS, WHO LOOKS PREPARED TO EAT
HORSES (MUCH LESS MERE ADVENTURERS),
BLOCKS THE STAIRCASE. FROM HIS STATE OF
HEALTH, AND THE BLOODSTAINS ON THE
WALLS, YOU GATHER THAT HE IS NOT VERY
FRIENDLY, THOUGH HE LIKES PEOPLE.

There are two possible solutions to the cyclops problem, one basically acceptable and one easily the worst in the game. For the former, we can give him the lunch we found in the house at the beginning of the game, followed by the bottle of water. The latter is another guess-the-word affair that makes the loud room look like design genius: we can type “ODYSSEUS.”

>ODYSSEUS
THE CYCLOPS, HEARING THE NAME OF HIS
FATHER'S DEADLY NEMESIS, FLEES THE ROOM
BY KNOCKING DOWN THE WALL ON THE EAST OF
THE ROOM.

But never fear, there is a “clue” to this solution. Reading a prayer book we found in the temple yields the following:

>EXAMINE BOOK
COMMANDMENT #12592

OH YE WHO GO ABOUT SAYING UNTO EACH:
"HELLO SAILOR":
DOST THOU KNOW THE MAGNITUDE OF THY SIN
BEFORE THE GODS?
YEA, VERILY, THOU SHALT BE GROUND
BETWEEN TWO STONES.
SHALL THE ANGRY GODS CAST THY BODY INTO
THE WHIRLPOOL?
SURELY, THY EYE SHALL BE PUT OUT WITH A
SHARP STICK!
EVEN UNTO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH SHALT
THOU WANDER AND
UNTO THE LAND OF THE DEAD SHALT THOU BE
SENT AT LAST.
SURELY THOU SHALT REPENT OF THY CUNNING.

On the original PDP-10 implementation, reading the first letter of each line yields “ODYSSEUS.” On the 40-column Apple II screen, however, this rather breaks down. It’s an awful “puzzle,” but the fact that Infocom give the player a more reasonable alternative really marks them, for all their continuing design pratfalls, as unusual text-adventure developers for this era. Scott Adams or Roberta Williams would have just stuck the easy-to-implement “ODYSSEUS” puzzle in and dreamed of all the hint booklets they were about to sell.

Beyond the cyclops lies the thief’s lair. Giving him his reckoning feels sweet indeed after all the trouble he’s caused us, not to mention restoring to us whatever treasures he’s stolen.

>U
YOU HEAR A SCREAM OF ANGUISH AS YOU
VIOLATE THE ROBBER'S HIDEAWAY. USING
PASSAGES UNKNOWN TO YOU, HE RUSHES TO
ITS DEFENSE.
THE THIEF GESTURES MYSTERIOUSLY, AND THE
TREASURES IN THE ROOM SUDDENLY VANISH.
TREASURE ROOM
THIS IS A LARGE ROOM, WHOSE EAST WALL IS
SOLID GRANITE. A NUMBER OF DISCARDED
BAGS, WHICH CRUMBLE AT YOUR TOUCH, ARE
SCATTERED ABOUT ON THE FLOOR. THERE IS
AN EXIT DOWN A STAIRCASE.
THERE IS A SUSPICIOUS-LOOKING
INDIVIDUAL, HOLDING A BAG, LEANING
AGAINST ONE WALL. HE IS ARMED WITH A
VICIOUS-LOOKING STILETTO.
THERE IS A SILVER CHALICE, INTRICATELY
ENGRAVED, HERE.
THE THIEF RAMS THE HAFT OF HIS BLADE
INTO YOUR STOMACH, LEAVING YOU OUT OF
BREATH.
>KILL THIEF WITH AXE
YOU ARE STILL RECOVERING FROM THAT LAST
BLOW, SO YOUR ATTACK IS INEFFECTIVE.
YOU PARRY A LIGHTNING THRUST, AND THE
THIEF SALUTES YOU WITH A GRIM NOD.
>KILL THIEF WITH AXE
THE THIEF IS STRUCK ON THE ARM, BLOOD
BEGINS TO TRICKLE DOWN.
THE THIEF STABS NONCHALANTLY WITH HIS
STILETTO AND MISSES.
>AGAIN
THE BLOW LANDS, MAKING A SHALLOW GASH IN
THE THIEF'S ARM!
THE THIEF TRIES TO SNEAK PAST YOUR
GUARD, BUT YOU TWIST AWAY.
>AGAIN
THE BLOW LANDS, MAKING A SHALLOW GASH IN
THE THIEF'S ARM!
THE THIEF SLOWLY APPROACHES, STRIKES
LIKE A SNAKE, AND LEAVES YOU WOUNDED.
>AGAIN
THE THIEF IS STRUCK ON THE ARM, BLOOD
BEGINS TO TRICKLE DOWN.
THE THIEF STABS NONCHALANTLY WITH HIS
STILETTO AND MISSES.
>AGAIN
YOU CHARGE, BUT THE THIEF JUMPS NIMBLY
ASIDE.
THE THIEF STABS NONCHALANTLY WITH HIS
STILETTO AND MISSES.
>AGAIN
THE FATAL BLOW STRIKES THE THIEF SQUARE
IN THE HEART: HE DIES.

But wait… remember when I mentioned way back at the beginning of this adventure that the jeweled egg we found in the forest was key to the cruelest puzzle in the game? Well, I’m afraid we need to get the thief to do something for us before we kill him. We need to let him open the egg for us, for, as subtly hinted when we try to do it ourselves, we “HAVEN’T THE TOOLS OR EXPERTISE.”

With the maze explored and the thief employed and then promptly dispatched, we face only one last puzzle — but it’s another nasty one, a late addition that we could just as well have done without. From time to time while wandering in the forest, we “HEAR IN THE DISTANCE THE CHIRPING OF A SONG BIRD,” a message originally included as just a bit of flavor text. Tim Anderson:

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.

Specifically, we need to wind the clockwork canary we found inside the egg to attract the songbird, which in turn drops a brass bauble at our feet — the 19th and final treasure. We place the lot in the trophy case, which magically opens up a new path outside.

>SW
STONE BARROW
YOU ARE STANDING IN FRONT OF A MASSIVE
BARROW OF STONE. IN THE EAST FACE IS A
HUGE STONE DOOR WHICH IS OPEN. YOU
CANNOT SEE INTO THE DARK OF THE TOMB.
>W
AS YOU ENTER THE BARROW, THE DOOR CLOSES
INEXORABLY BEHIND YOU. AROUND YOU IT IS
DARK, BUT AHEAD IS AN ENORMOUS CAVERN,
BRIGHTLY LIT. THROUGH ITS CENTER RUNS A
WIDE STREAM. SPANNING THE STREAM IS A
SMALL WOODEN FOOTBRIDGE, AND BEYOND A
PATH LEADS INTO A DARK TUNNEL. ABOVE THE
BRIDGE, FLOATING IN THE AIR, IS A LARGE
SIGN. IT READS: ALL YE WHO STAND BEFORE
THIS BRIDGE HAVE COMPLETED A GREAT AND
PERILOUS ADVENTURE WHICH HAS TESTED YOUR
WIT AND COURAGE. YOU HAVE GAINED THE
MASTERY OF THE FIRST PART OF THE GREAT
UNDERGROUND EMPIRE. THOSE WHO PASS OVER
THIS BRIDGE MUST BE PREPARED TO
UNDERTAKE AN EVEN GREATER ADVENTURE THAT
WILL SEVERELY TEST YOUR SKILL AND
BRAVERY!
PLAY "ZORK: THE GREAT UNDERGROUND
EMPIRE, PART II".
YOUR SCORE WOULD BE 350 (TOTAL OF 350
POINTS), IN 1313 MOVES.
THIS SCORE GIVES YOU THE RANK OF MASTER
ADVENTURER.

And that, my friends, is Zork, a flawed creation but a tremendous advance over what had come before. And Infocom were just getting started.

I’ll have much, much more to say about Infocom in the future. But next, something completely different.

 
 

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19 Responses to Exploring Zork, Part 3

  1. Tale

    January 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Is there any way to heal the player from wounds sustained in combat?

     
  2. Andrew Plotkin

    January 23, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Just waiting for twenty or forty turns will heal your wounds. Of course you’d want to wait somewhere lit and turn off your lamp, so as not to waste the battery power.

    As for the “two possible solutions” to the cyclops, you do realize that using the food-and-water option makes the game unwinnable, right?

     
    • Jimmy Maher

      January 23, 2012 at 6:46 am

      Really? How so? I used the “Odysseus” option just for convenience on my main playthrough, and finished with both food and water unused. The only disadvantage I saw was that the convenient direct passage between the living room and the cyclops room doesn’t get opened up.

       
      • Will

        February 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm

        Trying not to be too spoiler-y here, on the off chance that someone hasn’t actually played through Zork.

        As I recall, there was an item in the sack (a part of the lunch) that you need to have in order to move past a certain point elsewhere in the game. I would assume that if the cyclops eats all the items before you’ve accomplished the other task, you would not be able to finish. (I don’t recall an alternate way around the other puzzle.)

         
        • Jimmy Maher

          February 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm

          Yes, there are two items in the sack, and I believe — from a very old memory, now — that it’s possible for the cyclops to eat both if you give them to him. And yes, this would make the game unwinnable.

           
          • Classic Craig

            September 1, 2015 at 3:27 pm

            The sandwich reeks of garlic and gets you past the vampire bat that grabs you in the mine and drops you in the maze — from what I remember. If you have the sandwich, the bat (“a reject from WUMPUS”) holds its nose and doesn’t attack.
            I always dealt with the cyclops after I was done in the coal mine, so I could use the sandwich or the magic word. I don’t think losing the sandwich makes the game unwinnable unless you haven’t gotten the treasure from the Bat Room.

             
    • Nathan

      January 23, 2012 at 7:50 am

      I don’t remember the lunch being needed for anything either, but if you want to have it you could always GET IT right after giving it to him.

       
  3. ZUrlocker

    January 23, 2012 at 3:04 am

    No wonder I never got that far in this game!

     
  4. Seedy

    January 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    There is an alternate solution to the Loud Room. It involves the dam and Reservoir.
    Also there are certain weapons that are most effective against each creature. The nasty knife is the most effective against the thief and the sword is the best choice to defeat the troll.

     
  5. Duncan Stevens

    January 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    “The latter is another guess-the-word affair that makes the round room look like design genius.”

    I think you meant the LOUD ROOM, but agreed on the substance. Also agree that the game isn’t technically unwinnable if you use the food, but I seem to recall that the cyclops wakes up again pretty promptly, so you effectively only get one shot at the thief’s lair. If, say, you couldn’t carry all the treasures that the thief’s collected away, you’re out of luck. (And of course you have to troop back through the maze, unless you had the even-more-guess-the-verb insight of typing “TEMPLE” to get out of the lair.)

     
    • Jimmy Maher

      January 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Yes, should be “loud room.” Changing that now. Thanks!

       
    • Lisa

      January 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Having the granite walls work by touch like the mirrors would have been more intuitive.

       
  6. Kuwa

    February 7, 2012 at 3:56 am

    sorry, I am a Japanese.
    although English can be read, cannot write.
    since — I will write in Japanese.

    ここは素晴らしいblogですね。IFとRPGの歴史について、とても良く調べられているので、参考になります。

    私はZork I(Japanese translation)がとても好きになったので、IFを遊ぶようになりました。
    文学的な嗜好のIFはZork seriersとはかなり違っていましたが、別の楽しさがありました。

    しかし、英語であるので、物語にわからないところが出てきてしまいます。

    1980年代の日本では、Computerによる日本語の解釈の難しさによって、text adventureはほとんど作られず、翻訳もされませんでした。

    1990年初頭に、System Softという会社によってPlanetfall、Enchanter、Moonmist、Zork Iの4つが翻訳されましたが、その時代にはGraficalなGameが主流だったので、これらの作品は、ほとんど売れなかったのです。
    この頃から、日本のPC game市場は縮小しており、Adult Games が市場のほとんどを占めるようになっていきました。

    こういった理由により、日本でのtext adventure(IF)は、完全に終了した分野となっています。

    InformやTADSのような開発言語も、もちろん日本語には対応していません。言語形態が非常に異なるため、対応させるのは難しいでしょうし、需要もほとんどありません。

    しかし、それでも、IFのInterpreterを改造し、日本語に対応させる方法を、私は考えています。

     
    • Jimmy Maher

      February 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      A quick translation, courtesy of Oren Ronen:

      This is a wonderful blog. The research on IF and RPG history is very well done, and became a point of reference for me.

      I started playing IF after really enjoying Zork I (Japanese translation). Literary-style IF are different from the Zork series, but they’re also a separate kind of fun.

      But, since they are in English, there are many things in the stories I don’t understand.

      During the ’80s, interpreting Japanese text on a computer was very difficult, and so there weren’t many text adventures made, not were there many translations of western games.

      In the beginning of the ’90s, a company called System Soft translated Planetfall, Enchanter, Moonmist and Zork I, but at that time graphical games were already the mainstream, so they didn’t sell very well.
      These days, Japan’s PC games industry is shrinking, and comprised mostly of adult games.

      For these reasons, in Japan, the text adventure is a field that has come to a complete stop.

      Programming languages such as Inform and TADS do not target the Japanese language, of course. Since Japanese syntax is completely different from English, it is difficult to adapt them. There is not much demand for it.

      Nevertheless, I am thinking about ways to modify IF interpreters and make them work in Japanese.

       
  7. Ziusudra

    February 6, 2015 at 2:23 am

    That thief is pissing me off:

    >e
    Gallery
    This is an art gallery. Most of the paintings have been stolen by vandals with exceptional taste. The vandals left through either the north
    or west exits.
    Fortunately, there is still one chance for you to be a vandal, for on the far wall is a painting of unparalleled beauty.

    >get painting
    You can’t see any painting here!

    >l
    Gallery
    This is an art gallery. Most of the paintings have been stolen by vandals with exceptional taste. The vandals left through either the north
    or west exits.

    >

    Or it may be a bug, since it never mentions the thief. It happened once with the pot of gold, too.

     
    • Lisa H.

      February 6, 2015 at 3:58 am

      Any object you have seen, the thief of course has a chance to take (whether to store in his treasure room or to drop elsewhere), but I’ve never seen it happen while I was actually standing in the room at the time without it describing the Thief. Bizarre.

       
  8. Michael S.

    February 22, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    In case anybody still reads this, I have two comments, one a response to a previous comment. The sandwich and the garlic are two different items. You can eat the sandwich, or give it to the Cyclops, and still have the garlic for later use.

    Also, I recently found an online emulator for this game but ran into an odd problem. For some reason, the thief never appears in this version until you visit the treasure room. Therefore, there is no way to get the egg open and I can’t finish. I don’t know if there’s an error in this version of the game, or if some action I perform causes him not to appear. Anybody know about this?

     
    • Lisa H.

      February 22, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Where are you playing this?

      When you say “never appears”, do you mean that no treasures or other items vanish when you’re not around, or just that you have never encountered the Thief in a room? Are you doing something like dropping the egg so he can find it, and yet he never seems to, or…?

      I suppose you could try giving the egg to the Thief in the treasure room and then immediately leaving?

       

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