The most fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing

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Greg Boettcher

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Apr 16, 2007, 2:26:38 PM4/16/07
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I just finished playing the original mainframe Zork, a.k.a. Dungeon.
The main thing that struck me about it is that it is fiendishly and
pitilessly cruel to the player as a matter of course. I gather that,
in that day and age, any game that didn't treat the player as an
adversary, and didn't do a good job of beating its adversary down, was
regarded as a wussy game. I have played games like Snowball, the one
with the world-record 6,800-room maze, and I don't think even that is
as cruel as the original mainframe Zork.[*] At least in Snowball, when
you're done with the maze, you're done with the maze. In Dungeon,
almost no area of the game is mapped logically. If you go north from
Room A to Room B, it's a good bet that you can't go south from Room B
to Room A. That is, practically the whole game is a damn maze. I don't
recall this being the case with Zork 1 to 3. This is on top of all the
mazes and fiendishly difficult puzzles that Dungeon/Zork shares in
common with Zork 1 to 3.

Because of all this, I would describe Dungeon/Zork as "the most
fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing."

Does anyone else have any other opinions as to what games might fit
that description?

Greg

[*] Disclaimer: I played both Dungeon/Zork and Snowball using a
walkthrough, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Adam Thornton

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Apr 16, 2007, 3:07:21 PM4/16/07
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In article <1176747998.0...@d57g2000hsg.googlegroups.com>,

Greg Boettcher <WRITET...@gregboettcher.com> wrote:
>Does anyone else have any other opinions as to what games might fit
>that description?

Savage Island Part II?

Mad Venture?

Adam

Nikos Chantziaras

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Apr 16, 2007, 3:44:35 PM4/16/07
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Greg Boettcher wrote:
> [...]

> Because of all this, I would describe Dungeon/Zork as "the most
> fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing."

I tend to disagree with the "worth playing" part. True, it was new and
awesome back then, but today? Maybe it's worth playing for historical
reasons, but it's not much fun when compared to latter games.

ChicagoDave

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Apr 16, 2007, 4:02:57 PM4/16/07
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On Apr 16, 1:26 pm, "Greg Boettcher" <WRITETOgre...@gregboettcher.com>
wrote:

> Because of all this, I would describe Dungeon/Zork as "the most
> fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing."

Since "Dungeo" on the PDP-11 is what got me into computers, I can
honestly say that this game represents more than just cruelty to me.
It makes up for a large part of my teenage life. Myself and several
other students spent more than a year solving it and to do so we had
to convince the teacher in charge of the computers to let us leave one
logged in and playing the game throughout the day. We're talking about
playing the game on a paper terminal here, at 300 baud. I recall
having reams of breen bar Dungeo print outs.

Oh by the way, we called it "Dungeo" because the PDP listed active
programs with 6 characters.

David C.

Rune

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Apr 16, 2007, 4:49:40 PM4/16/07
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On Apr 16, 10:02 pm, "ChicagoDave" <david.cornel...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Since "Dungeo" on the PDP-11 is what got me into computers, I can
> honestly say that this game represents more than just cruelty to me.
> It makes up for a large part of my teenage life. Myself and several
> other students spent more than a year solving it and to do so we had
> to convince the teacher in charge of the computers to let us leave one
> logged in and playing the game throughout the day. We're talking about
> playing the game on a paper terminal here, at 300 baud. I recall
> having reams of breen bar Dungeo print outs.
>
> Oh by the way, we called it "Dungeo" because the PDP listed active
> programs with 6 characters.

Luxury! In my day the game was simply known as "Dung",
and we couldn't even afford printouts, but had to make do with speech
synthesis.

- Rune

Victor Gijsbers

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Apr 16, 2007, 5:46:54 PM4/16/07
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Rune wrote:

>> Oh by the way, we called it "Dungeo" because the PDP listed active
>> programs with 6 characters.
>
> Luxury! In my day the game was simply known as "Dung",
> and we couldn't even afford printouts, but had to make do with speech
> synthesis.

You were lucky. When I was a kid, we called the game "44", which was the
hexadecimal ASCII code for the first letter of its name. We hadn't even
heard of printouts, and had to interpret a single flashing light bulb
that spelled out the computer's replies in binary ASCII codes. And when
we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt!


Regards,
Victor

Nikos Chantziaras

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Apr 16, 2007, 6:13:14 PM4/16/07
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Ha! That's nothing. Back in the days we had to walk to the computer
room barefoot, in the snow, for over 10 kilometers. We had to input
game commands by manipulating a panel of countless switches, each one
representing a register bit. There were 8 switches for each register
and there were 29 registers in total. And we had to form each ASCII
value using those switches.

There was no output so we had to guess it. *THAT* was hard.

Greg Boettcher

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Apr 16, 2007, 6:19:28 PM4/16/07
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Yeah. Of course, that's why I called it **arguably** worth playing.

Greg

Adam Thornton

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Apr 16, 2007, 6:57:41 PM4/16/07
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In article <f00sdp$589$1...@volcano1.grnet.gr>,

Nikos Chantziaras <rea...@arcor.de> wrote:
>There was no output so we had to guess it. *THAT* was hard.

Luxury! We didn't even have ones. Just zeroes!

Adam

Stephen Ware

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Apr 16, 2007, 7:52:41 PM4/16/07
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On Apr 16, 5:57 pm, a...@fsf.net (Adam Thornton) wrote:
> In article <f00sdp$58...@volcano1.grnet.gr>,

> Nikos Chantziaras <rea...@arcor.de> wrote:
>
> >There was no output so we had to guess it. *THAT* was hard.
>
> Luxury! We didn't even have ones. Just zeroes!
>
> Adam

You're all spoiled rotten! Back in my day we didn't even have
computers... we had to explore actual dungeons and collect actual
items. Many of my close friends were eaten by monsters or fell into
pit traps where they died slow and painful deaths, all for an
afternoon's entertainment! We kept score on a giant mechanical abacus
that took 4 people to crank, and saving your game meant leaving a
trail of breadcrumbs from the entrance of the dungeon.

Stephen Ware

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Apr 16, 2007, 8:07:42 PM4/16/07
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As for cruelest game worth playing, I would have to vote for "Curses,"
but I am still very much a newbie to IF.

I came from the Graphic Adventure tradition of Lucas Arts and Sierra,
where it was very difficult or impossible to dead-end yourself. After
a lot of frustration, I finally looked at a walkthrough for Curses,
only to discover that I had unintentionally skipped over several
essential items.

I don't mind a game where you can be dead-ended, but there was
absolutely no warning for some such situations in Curses. For
example, (spoiler warning) reading what seemed like a harmless book of
poetry swept me away to a totally different time and place before I
had even had a chance to explore the entire attic. Also, in the
Africa dream sequence, if you guess the wrong direction to go in at
the beginning, the dream ends before you can do what you have to do
there... and there is no way to get back as far as I know.

Emily Short

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Apr 16, 2007, 8:55:01 PM4/16/07
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On Apr 16, 1:26 pm, "Greg Boettcher" <WRITETOgre...@gregboettcher.com>
wrote:
> Because of all this, I would describe Dungeon/Zork as "the most
> fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing."
>
> Does anyone else have any other opinions as to what games might fit
> that description?

I suppose it depends on how you define cruel, but "Jigsaw" fits this
description for me -- there are several puzzles that I never came
close to solving, and one I didn't understand even after solving it
with a walkthrough. It was still hugely fun overall, and one of the
few large games I've replayed in its entirety.

Stephen Gilbert

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Apr 16, 2007, 9:51:02 PM4/16/07
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You had breadcrumbs?

Victor Gijsbers

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Apr 17, 2007, 4:07:54 AM4/17/07
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Greg Boettcher wrote:

> Because of all this, I would describe Dungeon/Zork as "the most
> fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing."
>
> Does anyone else have any other opinions as to what games might fit
> that description?

I think I'd vote for Varicella. I have attempted to play it thrice, and
every time the cruelty of the game (where I use cruelty as it is used on
IFWiki: the ability to put the game in an unwinnable state without
warning) has driven me off.

And I still think that someday I'll return to it and finally solve it.
(Or begin solving it, rather, since I never came very far.) Whereas for
games like Zork and even Curses, I have already decided that for me
(nota bene: for me), they are not worth playing. (Actually, when I was
new to IF, I did play Curses, and for quite some time too. But I just
don't have the patience for huge and cruel puzzle games like that.)

Regards,
Victor

William McDuff

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Apr 17, 2007, 4:14:20 AM4/17/07
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<snip>

> You're all spoiled rotten! Back in my day we didn't even have
<snip>

Ladies and gentlement, the four Yorkshiregeeks.

David Goldfarb

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Apr 17, 2007, 6:20:04 AM4/17/07
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In article <574dd$4624805a$9161cc52$19...@news1.tudelft.nl>,

Victor Gijsbers <vic...@lilith.gotdns.org> wrote:
>Greg Boettcher wrote:
>
>> Because of all this, I would describe Dungeon/Zork as "the most
>> fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing."
>>
>> Does anyone else have any other opinions as to what games might fit
>> that description?
>
>I think I'd vote for Varicella. I have attempted to play it thrice, and
>every time the cruelty of the game (where I use cruelty as it is used on
>IFWiki: the ability to put the game in an unwinnable state without
>warning) has driven me off.

Well, the whole point of Varicella is "learn-by-dying", yes? Varicella
has a fiendishly clever plan to deal with all his rivals...and *you*
don't know it. But by the time you've played through the game a few
dozen times you've developed it for yourself. (Sort of _Rematch_ on
steroids.)

Admittedly, I haven't gone and played through it all either. Someday.

Andrew Plotkin's _So Far_ is also pretty cruel, in terms of letting you
make the game unwinnable with no warnings, but I think it's definitely
worth playing. (The online InvisiClues help a lot.)

--
David Goldfarb | "Speak softly, drive a Sherman tank
gold...@ocf.berkeley.edu | Laugh hard, it's a long way to the bank."
gold...@csua.berkeley.edu | -- TMBG

Paul O'Brian

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Apr 17, 2007, 12:19:34 PM4/17/07
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On Apr 16, 12:26 pm, "Greg Boettcher"

<WRITETOgre...@gregboettcher.com> wrote:
> I just finished playing the original mainframe Zork, a.k.a. Dungeon.
> The main thing that struck me about it is that it is fiendishly and
> pitilessly cruel to the player as a matter of course.

I had a very similar experience with it, which served as a reminder of
how much friendlier modern IF has gotten. I know not everybody likes
that trend, but I think it's a very good thing. Here's the review I
wrote after playing Dungeon:

http://www.ministryofpeace.com/if-review/reviews/20010629.html

Paul O'Brian

ChicagoDave

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Apr 17, 2007, 1:46:34 PM4/17/07
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On Apr 17, 11:19 am, Paul O'Brian <verbosep...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Here's the review I wrote after playing Dungeon:
>
> http://www.ministryofpeace.com/if-review/reviews/20010629.html

Oddly enough, I started playing Dungeon with a kid that scolded anyone
if they started making a map. He said, "Part of the game is to
memorize the map."

I took this to heart playing those and nearly every other Infocom game
without taking notes or drawing a map.

And on another note, the Thief is still one of the greatest NPC's of
all time.

(minor spoiler)

The thrill of finally defeating him is one of the greatest thrills in
IF.

David C.

Eriorg

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Apr 18, 2007, 8:38:14 AM4/18/07
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Greg Boettcher a écrit :

> I have played games like Snowball, the one
> with the world-record 6,800-room maze, and I don't think even that is
> as cruel as the original mainframe Zork.[*] At least in Snowball, when
> you're done with the maze, you're done with the maze.
> [...]

> [*] Disclaimer: I played both Dungeon/Zork and Snowball using a
> walkthrough, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Well, I played Snowball a few years ago and solved the maze without
help, and I didn't even think it was a cruel maze at all. At least,
not more cruel than "traditional" mazes with maybe 10 or 20 identical
rooms and lots of twisty passages.

It was even relatively interesting (for a maze), because you had to
understand the logic of the maze and of its colors, instead of just
dropping one object in every room and trying every exit, which is much
more tedious.

Of course, you had to enter only a really tiny fraction of the 6,800
rooms in order to solve the maze! And the room descriptions, although
repetitive, weren't identical: there were different colors in every
group of rooms. And there were very few, if any, twisty passages (i.e.
if you went west from Room A to Room B, you could almost always go
east from Room B to Room A).


To sum up, I think it's not very accurate to choose the maze from
Snowball as an example of great cruelty...

Depresiv

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Apr 18, 2007, 9:47:18 AM4/18/07
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On 18 abr, 14:38, Eriorg <Eri...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Greg Boettcher a écrit :
>
> > I have played games like Snowball, the one
> > with the world-record 6,800-room maze, and I don't think even that is
[...]

>
> To sum up, I think it's not very accurate to choose the maze from
> Snowball as an example of great cruelty...

It also isn't a world record. "Hunter, In Darkness" maze was much
bigger.

Autymn D. C.

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Apr 18, 2007, 1:20:28 PM4/18/07
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GC: A Thrashing Parity Bit of the Mind is as hard/cruel as Curses, but
much smaller. It's not for classics majors, either.

ghe...@ia.net

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Apr 25, 2007, 10:56:11 PM4/25/07
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I just downloaded Dungeon. I figure if I'm going to play all 3 zorks
at some point, I may as well do them all at once by playing Dungeon.
Speaking of which, where the heck did you get the walkthrough? I'm so
unemployed I really don't have time to be figuring it out for real. :)

Have any of you played "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" I tried
that once, and despite having read the books became dead and
frustrated often and quickly, but NOT QUITE SO QUICKLY as when I tried
to play Douglas Adams's other Infocom Game, Bureaucracy. Imagine
you're playing zork, but every time you mistype a command or try
something that doesn't work, you get one point, and when you have 4
points, you're dead. That's bureaucracy. The points are your blood
pressure, and every time something doesn't work (or often even if it
DOES work) it goes up, and when it goes up too far, you have a heart
attack. When I realised my actual real blood pressure was going up, I
stopped playing it before I had a real heart attack.

As for whether it's worth playing...I suppose that depends on how much
of a Douglas Adams fan you are. Even so, it would arguably be better
for ones health to reverse engineer the zmachine file in order to read
all the clever text.

Good luck!

Vivienne Dunstan

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Apr 26, 2007, 7:43:37 AM4/26/07
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<ghe...@ia.net> wrote:

> Have any of you played "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" I tried
> that once, and despite having read the books became dead and

I played it back in the 1980s when it was first released. I loved it and
didn't get stuck too badly until I reached the babel fish puzzle. Only
reading a clue printed in a magazine got me past that one (this was of
course long before the Internet and easy availability of hints!). I got
stuck much later and needed an Invisiclues book to help me then, but I
was still quite chuffed with how far I got through. Perseverance worked!

Still love it, and play it again from time to time. I don't think you
need to have read the books to enjoy it - the plot is different enough
and goes off in whole new directions frequently - but obviously some
affection for Douglas Adams's writing style and world creation helps.

Bureaucracy is quite a different matter for me. I've tried that once and
got exasperated beyond belief with the start, and haven't returned. Must
give it another go though. Now where's my CD of Masterpieces ...

Viv Dunstan

rpresser

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Apr 26, 2007, 5:09:45 PM4/26/07
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On Apr 16, 2:26 pm, "Greg Boettcher" <WRITETOgre...@gregboettcher.com>
wrote:

> Because of all this, I would describe Dungeon/Zork as "the most


> fiendishly cruel game arguably worth playing."
>
> Does anyone else have any other opinions as to what games might fit
> that description?

The Annoyotron series, of course! Especially Appallatron.

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