Re: unwinnable

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Michael Martin

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Nov 13, 2005, 4:57:08 AM11/13/05
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It was, in fact, possible to die in Monkey Island. "Loom", which was
almost contemporaneous, was the poster child for games in which you
could neither die nor fail. In fact, Space Quest IV has a jab at it
for exactly this reason.

dave e

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Nov 13, 2005, 8:01:11 AM11/13/05
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niz wrote:
> i'm updating the wikipedia article on the "unwinnable state" in gaming:
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unwinnable
>
> ... and need some classic text-adventure examples of such states. is
> there a particularly famous one? also, is it true it first began being
> considered "unfair" or "cruel" around monkey-island time, or was it
> already considered unfair before then?
>
> thanks.


***Spoilers for Enchanter and Zork I, Zork III, other infocom games***

I remember Enchanter offering several attractive ways to misuse the
dispell magic scroll (kulcad, I think it was) any of which would put
the game in an unwinnable state. The interesting thing about
Enchanter, however, was that in the event that the player DID waste the
spell, some clue about the games unwinnability would show up in a later
dream.

I never caught on to the dream clue (until I read about it later) so I
was never able to solve the game until I got a hold of the invisiclues
which accompanied the Lost Treasures of Infocom package. I considered
it unfair because the mechanics of the game made it so attractive to
take the unwinnable path (if you didn't know any better). In contrast,
in most games, if you destroy some valuable artifact by throwing it in
a river, or such, it is immediately obvious that you have destroyed the
object, and you don't need to be reminded of it in a dream sequence.

But recalling a few more examples from the classic infocom games, there
was a clockwork bird in Zork I, which could only be discovered by
allowing the thief to steal the egg, and take it back to his lair
BEFORE killing him. It was a bit of a trap, since the player could
quite easily prevent the thief from stealing the egg (by never taking
it below ground) and since the player had other incentives for killing
the thief as quickly as possible without allowing him to steal anything
(once they had discovered how, that is).

Zork III had a cleverly timed puzzle, in which certain actions had to
be completed before an earthquake (which occurred very early in the
game) and other actions could only be completed after the earthquake.
If you didn't solve the pre-earthquake puzzle in time, the game was
unwinnable with only some subtle clues that this was the case.

Now that you have me on a roll, the second game in the Enchanter series
(Sorcerer?) had a timed puzzle at the very beginning of the game, which
had to be completed in order to finish the game. Again, you could
continue to play much of the rest of the game without realizing that
you'd missed getting a critical spell.

Spell Breaker had LOTS of ways to make the game unwinnable. The most
irritating of these (I found) was how easy it was to destroy your spell
book by getting it wet. In this case, however, it was always
immediately evident that you had destroyed your book, and there was a
spell available (if you happened to have it pre-memorized) to allow you
to repair the damaged book.

Dave

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 13, 2005, 11:14:37 AM11/13/05
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Here, dave e <dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> But recalling a few more examples from the classic infocom games, there
> was a clockwork bird in Zork I, which could only be discovered by
> allowing the thief to steal the egg, and take it back to his lair
> BEFORE killing him. It was a bit of a trap, since the player could
> quite easily prevent the thief from stealing the egg (by never taking
> it below ground) and since the player had other incentives for killing
> the thief as quickly as possible without allowing him to steal anything
> (once they had discovered how, that is).

You hardly have to search for examples. It's possible to make Zork I
unwinnable in seven moves: break the bottle with the sword. Sorry,
five moves: eat the garlic. Plenty of critical objects can be broken,
run out of power, or otherwise exit the game.

Actually, considering the washing machine, just about *every* object
in the game can be destroyed.

In the early Infocom games, it's easier to catalog the mistakes that
*don't* make the game unwinnable. (For example, you can go down the
trap door without the lamp, and you'll still be able to win -- albeit
with reduced points.)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.

dave e

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Nov 13, 2005, 11:52:23 AM11/13/05
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Responding to the question of "fairness", though, I think there is some
happy medium between allowing players to recklessly destroy items
(which adds to the realism of the world model) and designing the game
so that the player is actually encouraged to misuse and thereby destroy
a critical item, without realizing they are headed down an unwinnable
path.

Dave

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 13, 2005, 12:09:01 PM11/13/05
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Here, dave e <dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> >
> > You hardly have to search for examples. It's possible to make Zork I
> > unwinnable in seven moves: break the bottle with the sword. Sorry,
> > five moves: eat the garlic. Plenty of critical objects can be broken,
> > run out of power, or otherwise exit the game.
> >
> > Actually, considering the washing machine, just about *every* object
> > in the game can be destroyed.
> >
> > In the early Infocom games, it's easier to catalog the mistakes that
> > *don't* make the game unwinnable. (For example, you can go down the
> > trap door without the lamp, and you'll still be able to win -- albeit
> > with reduced points.)
>
> Responding to the question of "fairness", though, I think there is some
> happy medium between allowing players to recklessly destroy items
> (which adds to the realism of the world model) and designing the game
> so that the player is actually encouraged to misuse and thereby destroy
> a critical item, without realizing they are headed down an unwinnable
> path.

Really, though, that "happy medium" is theoretical. You can't expect
players to stay within it. The game positively encourages you to
explore everywhere, and you're nearly certain to run out of light in
the first few run-throughs. Eating the garlic is not reckless -- it's
experimentation, and while IF players rapidly learn the rule of
"conserve your resources", it's still a matter of saving often and
deliberately making mistakes.

Those early games offer so many ways to screw yourself that there *is*
no line between reckless behavior and being misled. One-use items,
timed sequences, non-re-entrant scenes. You can't plausibly expect a
player to get through a play session without trying at least one thing
on your "reckless" list. (And not realizing it until much later, if
that's your criterion.)

Damien Neil

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Nov 14, 2005, 4:11:13 AM11/14/05
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Although the ability to die in Monkey Island is itself a jab at games
where death is impossible.

Besides, it makes Guybrush's single special ability all the more
entertaining.

- Damien

Esa A E Peuha

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Nov 14, 2005, 6:31:49 AM11/14/05
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"Michael Martin" <mcma...@gmail.com> writes:

> It was, in fact, possible to die in Monkey Island.

It is also possible to put Monkey Island into an unwinnable state
without dying.

--
Esa Peuha
student of mathematics at the University of Helsinki
http://www.helsinki.fi/~peuha/

solar penguin

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Nov 14, 2005, 6:55:24 AM11/14/05
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--- dave e said...

> niz wrote:
>> i'm updating the wikipedia article on the "unwinnable state" in
>> gaming:
>>
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unwinnable
>>
>> ... and need some classic text-adventure examples of such states.
>
>

> ***Spoilers for Enchanter and Zork I, Zork III, other infocom games***
>

***Spoilers for Hitchhiker's Guide***

You can make Hitchhiker's Guide unwinnable if you arrive on the Heart of
Gold without the atomic vector plotter or the towel; or if you arrive on
the Vogon ship without the towel, the dressing gown or the junk mail.
Or if the poetry reading starts before you get the babel fish. Or if
you drop a vital object down the gap by the hatch control. Or if you
don't eat the fruit when you ask Marvin to open the hatch. Or if
there's some other reason why you don't give Marvin the right tool at
the right time.

There are also two examples of a special kind of unwinnable state, where
your actions have started a counter that means you're going to be dead
soon no matter what you do. The first is when a brick hits you on the
head and an ambulance takes you to hospital. The second is caused by
the random action of the improbability drive dumping you inside your own
brain.

But then, it's not surprising this game is so "cruel". After all,
elsewhere it deliberately lies to the player, just for fun. You
shouldn't expect it to start being nice over a mere matter of life and
death...


--
___ _ ___ _
/ __| ___ | | __ _ _ _ | _ \ ___ _ _ __ _ _ _ (_) _ _
\__ \/ _ \| |/ _` || '_| | _// -_)| ' \ / _` || || || || ' \
|___/\___/|_|\__,_||_| |_| \___||_||_|\__, | \_,_||_||_||_|
|___/
http://www.freewebs.com/solar_penguin/

** Klingons stole the cloaking device from the Royal National College
For The Next 2000 Years.

** I see your boss. Tell Jabba that I've never seen the anime.


solar penguin

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Nov 14, 2005, 6:55:24 AM11/14/05
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--- dave e said...

> niz wrote:
>> i'm updating the wikipedia article on the "unwinnable state" in
>> gaming:
>>
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unwinnable
>>
>> ... and need some classic text-adventure examples of such states.
>
>

> ***Spoilers for Enchanter and Zork I, Zork III, other infocom games***
>

***Spoilers for Hitchhiker's Guide***

Anders Hellerup Madsen

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Nov 14, 2005, 7:52:58 AM11/14/05
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Esa A E Peuha wrote:
> "Michael Martin" <mcma...@gmail.com> writes:
>
>
>>It was, in fact, possible to die in Monkey Island.
>
> It is also possible to put Monkey Island into an unwinnable state
> without dying.

Was it? How? Monkey Island is one of my favourite games ever and I
thought I had played it enough to know all it's secrets, allmost by
heart. I would love to know how this unwinable state is obtained!

Regards, Anders

Glenn P.,

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Nov 14, 2005, 9:43:02 AM11/14/05
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On 13-Nov-05 at 4:14pm -0000, <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> It's possible to make Zork I unwinnable in seven moves: break the

> bottle with the sword. Sorry, five moves: eat the garlic...

The garlic is correct, but there is nothing special about the bottle
of water in Zork I; there is an alternative way to defeat the Cyclops...

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

...which is hinted at by the Black Book on the Altar (you might want to
look up the word "acrostic" in a dictionary at this point). Just type
in the Secret Word while in the presence of the aforesaid Cyclops!

--_____ _____
{~._.~} * [ "Glenn P.," <C128UserD...@FVI.Net> ] * {~._.~}
_( Y )_ /| --------------------------------------------- |\ _( Y )_
(:_~*~_:)\| "Candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize -- |/(:_~*~_:)
(_)-(_) * That's what you get in Cracker Jack[tm]!" * (_)-(_)

:: Take Note Of The Spam Block On My E-Mail Address! ::

Boluc Papuccuoglu

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Nov 14, 2005, 10:11:03 AM11/14/05
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I strongly believe that all this was intentional. If you remove all
the elements in those games which made the game unwinnable, then what
you are left with is (my best guess) four or five hours of gaming. I
don't exactly recall how much the infocom games cost back in those
days, but I would have been frustrated if I did pay 20+$ for four
hours of typing. Yes, Guild of Thieves drove me nuts when I found out
I had left the berries after robbing the bank safe and was stranded on
the dice rooms, but I really loved that game, something that I think
would not have been possible if I had finished it in two days.

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 14, 2005, 10:40:49 AM11/14/05
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Here, Glenn P., <C128UserD...@fvi.net> wrote:
> On 13-Nov-05 at 4:14pm -0000, <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> > It's possible to make Zork I unwinnable in seven moves: break the
> > bottle with the sword. Sorry, five moves: eat the garlic...
>
> The garlic is correct, but there is nothing special about the bottle
> of water in Zork I

Drat, I wasn't thinking. Or rather, I was (loosely) thinking of the
bottle of water in Adventure, which *is* required! (But I can't
remember if you can break it. You can't in the Inform port, which
is what I've got handy.)

You can also break Zork's lamp in seven moves. Please pretend I said
that. :)

Here, Boluc Papuccuoglu


<bolucPERIOD...@removethisaknet.com.tr> wrote:
>
> I strongly believe that all this was intentional.

Of course it was intentional. That's my point: the game-design
(and game-playing) standards of the era were that the player had to
make many passes at the game, because any move could screw things up
in the long or short term. You can categorize mistakes into mistakes
that screw you immediately and mistakes that don't get you until later
-- but it's a fuzzy boundary, and the player is *not* expected to be
able to tell which he is in danger of.

Mark J. Tilford

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Nov 14, 2005, 11:21:25 AM11/14/05
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On Mon, 14 Nov 2005 09:43:02 -0500, Glenn P., <C128UserD...@FVI.Net> wrote:
>
>
> On 13-Nov-05 at 4:14pm -0000, <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> > It's possible to make Zork I unwinnable in seven moves: break the
> > bottle with the sword. Sorry, five moves: eat the garlic...
>
> The garlic is correct, but there is nothing special about the bottle
> of water in Zork I; there is an alternative way to defeat the Cyclops...
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> Spoiler Space
>
> ...which is hinted at by the Black Book on the Altar (you might want to
> look up the word "acrostic" in a dictionary at this point). Just type
> in the Secret Word while in the presence of the aforesaid Cyclops!
>

Alternately, if you knew of the secret, you could go to the Temple and
type "Treasure" or "Temple".

> --_____ _____
> {~._.~} * [ "Glenn P.," <C128UserD...@FVI.Net> ] * {~._.~}
> _( Y )_ /| --------------------------------------------- |\ _( Y )_
> (:_~*~_:)\| "Candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize -- |/(:_~*~_:)
> (_)-(_) * That's what you get in Cracker Jack[tm]!" * (_)-(_)
>
>:: Take Note Of The Spam Block On My E-Mail Address! ::


--
------------------------
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
til...@ugcs.caltech.edu

Glenn P.,

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Nov 14, 2005, 11:46:18 AM11/14/05
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On 14-Nov-05 at 4:21pm -0000, <til...@ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

Spoiler Space

> Alternately, if you knew of the secret, you could go to the Temple and


> type "Treasure" or "Temple".

How does this get one past the Cyclops (which is what I was discussing)???

dave e

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Nov 14, 2005, 1:09:30 PM11/14/05
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Glenn P., wrote:
> On 14-Nov-05 at 4:21pm -0000, <til...@ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
>
> Spoiler Space

> > Alternately, if you knew of the secret, you could go to the Temple and
> > type "Treasure" or "Temple".
>
> How does this get one past the Cyclops (which is what I was discussing)???
>

that secret passage gets you directly to the thief's treasure room,
bypassing both the maze and the cyclops entirely. You still need to
enter the maze to pick up the bag of gold, but the cyclops was guarding
anything other than the entrance to the thief's layer, so that part is
a nonessential puzzle.

Looking back, you can drop the unlit lamp in the darkened attic, for
another cleverly stupid means of losing the game in 9 moves. But I
think Andrew Plotkin's suggestion to "eat the garlic" is just about the
fastest way to lose in five moves.

This could be a whole new sport- discovering the fastest path to
failure in each of the old infocom games

Dave

> --_____ _____

Eyecatcher

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Nov 14, 2005, 3:40:52 PM11/14/05
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A historical note:

Mike Dornbrook, Infocom's head of marketing, conducted a customer
survey (in late 1984, I think) which showed a distinct correlation
between the Infocom games players considered their favorites, and the
games they had actually finished. This bit of marketing intelligence
led to the more foolproof design of Wishbringer and, later, Loom.

Message has been deleted
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Esa A E Peuha

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Nov 14, 2005, 5:51:15 PM11/14/05
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Anders Hellerup Madsen <and...@hellerup-madsen.dk> writes:

> Was it? How? Monkey Island is one of my favourite games ever and I
> thought I had played it enough to know all it's secrets, allmost by
> heart. I would love to know how this unwinable state is obtained!

Spoiler space:


It has been years since I played the game, so I'm not completely sure of
the details. Anyway, the crucial object is the banana picker which you
must give to Herman Toothrot. This can be done either immediately after
you get the banana picker or after you use it to pick bananas out of the
banana tree, and if you don't give it to him immediately, he disappears
until you pick bananas from the tree. However, you can find enough
bananas elsewhere, and the game won't let you have more bananas than you
need. So, if you have all bananas and the banana picker, you are
screwed: you can't find Herman before you pick a banana out of the tree,
but you can't pick a banana because you already have all of them.

Eyecatcher

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Nov 14, 2005, 6:19:16 PM11/14/05
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I think Seastalker (1984) was the first Infocom game to be
friendlier than usual in this regard, although both it and
Wishbringer have states where you can "lose" by failing
to complete the mission.

Not sure about MM, Zak and Indy 3. Anyone?

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 14, 2005, 6:49:36 PM11/14/05
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Here, niz <n...@infidel.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

>
> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> >
> > You hardly have to search for examples. It's possible to make Zork I
> > unwinnable in seven moves: break the bottle with the sword. Sorry,
> > five moves: eat the garlic. Plenty of critical objects can be broken,
> > run out of power, or otherwise exit the game.
> >
>
> isnt the eat garlic trick 6 moves not 5?

I'd better stop using concrete examples, before I set fire to my foot
or something. I could have sworn I counted that one out.

You *can* break the lamp in seven, though.

And you can destroy the jewel-encrusted egg in five, which makes
*that* the fastest way to lose.

Damien Neil

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Nov 15, 2005, 2:17:46 AM11/15/05
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I'm pretty certain Maniac Mansion can be rendered unwinnable.
Characters can die, with a bit of work; I suspect killing two of them
would leave you unable to win.

MM was a complex game, though, with lots of alternate solutions;
screwing up in one area wouldn't necessarily be fatal.

- Damien

dave e

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Nov 15, 2005, 1:39:12 PM11/15/05
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**Zork I spoilers follow

I'm not surprised at this at all, since those games for which I relied
most heavily on invisiclues stick least favorably in my mind (Zork II,
Hitchhiker's).

I finished Zork I with only a minimal amount of help. Surprisingly, I
got a hint on the bat puzzle from my little sister, who had never
played interactive fiction in her life, but heard me complaining about
the vampire bat and said (off-handedly) "too bad you don't have any
garlic to keep it away"
DOH!

The last puzzle I finished was the pot of gold at the end of the
rainbow. I'd been banging my head against the computer screen for
weeks, trying to get that last lousy treasure, when I happened to wave
the sceptre at something and noticed the sparkle. It wasn't
immediately obvious what this meant, but I deduced it was important,
and went around waving the sceptre in every damn location in the game
until something happened.

Since reading this discussion on quick ways to lose Zork I, I went back
and replayed some of the opening moves. Nearly all of the early losing
moves (dropping the egg from a tree, eating the garlic, even dropping
things in the river) are accompanied by non-default responses which
provide immediate clues to the player to the effect of "perhaps you
should have saved that item for some other purpose."

I wasn't able to break the lamp with the sword. Not sure how to do
this, or what response it returns.

Dave

Dave

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 15, 2005, 2:04:18 PM11/15/05
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Here, dave e <dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> I wasn't able to break the lamp with the sword. Not sure how to do
> this, or what response it returns.

You can't, but you can "throw lamp at wooden door" to break it.

Nathan

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Nov 15, 2005, 2:23:38 PM11/15/05
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Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> Here, dave e <dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > I wasn't able to break the lamp with the sword. Not sure how to do
> > this, or what response it returns.
>
> You can't, but you can "throw lamp at wooden door" to break it.

THROW SWORD AT LAMP works just fine.

Mark J. Tilford

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Nov 15, 2005, 8:21:50 PM11/15/05
to
On Sun, 13 Nov 2005 16:14:37 +0000 (UTC), Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
>
> Here, dave e <dgen...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> But recalling a few more examples from the classic infocom games, there
>> was a clockwork bird in Zork I, which could only be discovered by
>> allowing the thief to steal the egg, and take it back to his lair
>> BEFORE killing him. It was a bit of a trap, since the player could
>> quite easily prevent the thief from stealing the egg (by never taking
>> it below ground) and since the player had other incentives for killing
>> the thief as quickly as possible without allowing him to steal anything
>> (once they had discovered how, that is).
>
> You hardly have to search for examples. It's possible to make Zork I
> unwinnable in seven moves: break the bottle with the sword. Sorry,
> five moves: eat the garlic. Plenty of critical objects can be broken,
> run out of power, or otherwise exit the game.
>
> Actually, considering the washing machine, just about *every* object
> in the game can be destroyed.

What washing machine? (I know you can throw objects into the river, which
works just as well.)

>
> In the early Infocom games, it's easier to catalog the mistakes that
> *don't* make the game unwinnable. (For example, you can go down the
> trap door without the lamp, and you'll still be able to win -- albeit
> with reduced points.)
>
> --Z
>
> "And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
> *
> I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 15, 2005, 8:52:42 PM11/15/05
to
Here, Mark J. Tilford <til...@ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
> On Sun, 13 Nov 2005 16:14:37 +0000 (UTC), Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Actually, considering the washing machine, just about *every* object
> > in the game can be destroyed.
>
> What washing machine?

In the coal mine. It turns just about anything to slag.

> (I know you can throw objects into the river, which
> works just as well.)

Ah yes. I have forgotten many details.

Michael Martin

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Nov 16, 2005, 4:39:25 AM11/16/05
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I don't know about Indy 3, but Indy *4* (Fate of Atlantis) would kill
you at just about every turn if you were on the Fists path.

Glenn P.,

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Nov 16, 2005, 5:19:25 PM11/16/05
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On 16-Nov-05 at 1:21am -0000, <til...@ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:

> What washing machine? (I know you can throw objects into the river, which
> works just as well.)

My guess is that he's referring to the Diamond-Making Machine.

Personally, to get rid of extraneous objects, I toss 'em into the chasm. :)

-- _____ %%%%%%%%%%% "Glenn P.," <C128UserD...@FVI.Net> %%%%%%%%%%%
{~._.~} -----------------------------------------------------------------
_( Y )_ "Handsome, pretty, handsome Dr. Smith! He make nose wiggle!"
(:_~*~_:) -----------------------------------------------------------------
(_)-(_) The Lady Of The Green Mist (From "Lost In Space")

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