Sunday, May 8, 2011

Castiglione Busts a Cap in the Wumpus's A**

While writing my post on Hunt the Wumpus, I stumbled upon this little tidbit of information in Wikipedia: “An interpretation of Wumpus called 'Grand Theft Wumpus' is built up gradually in chapter 8 of Land of Lisp”.

Grand Theft Wumpus?

Needless to say, I was intrigued.

After poking around on the internet, I learned that Land of Lisp is a Lisp text book that was partly inspired by the likes of BASIC Computer Games and More BASIC Computer Games.

I dug around a bit more and as soon as I saw the YouTube ad for the book, I knew I had to get it.

I won't go into how the book rates as a Lisp textbook as there are plenty of reviews available on Amazon and elsewhere for those who may be interested in learning Lisp and are wondering what Land of Lisp has to offer. The only thing I'll say about the book itself is that the binding absolutely sucks. Or at least it did in my copy.

To play Grand Theft Wumpus, all you need, besides Common Lisp installed on your computer, is the game's source code, which is available at the Land of Lisp web-site. Author Conrad Barksi describes Hunt the Wumpus as “the most violent programming example ever put into a textbook”. When he wrote this, he must have had tongue planted firmly in cheek since it's really no more violent than the original Hunt the Wumpus. Orc Battle, which is the game covered in the following chapter, is significantly more violent.

The background story of Grand Theft Wumpus was no doubt inspired by Paypack. You, the player, are the Wumpus's partner-in-crime. Or at least you were until he decided to double-cross you and run off with all the money you two stole in a liquor store robbery. You managed to bust a cap in his ass (or rather, his kidney) before he got away so now he's wounded and laying low in Congestion City. And now you're going to track him down and shoot him dead (because that's just the kind of guy you are), while evading gangs of glowworms and police roadblocks.

Bereft of its nihilistic wrapper, Grand Theft Wumpus is essentially the same game as Hunt the Wumpus. Instead of superbats picking you up and dropping you in random locations, gangs of glowworms serve the same purpose. Instead of bottomless pits, there are police roadblocks. And the Wumpus doesn't eat you when you blunder into him but instead blows you away with a burst from his AK-47. You get the idea. The only real differences are:

  1. The map is larger (30 locations as opposed to 20) and is randomly generated at the start of each game. Unlike the original, each location doesn't necessarily have three exits (streets) and dead-ends/cul-de-sacs are not uncommon.
  2. The Wumpus can be detected two locations away from its location (as opposed to one).
  3. If you blunder upon a gang of glowworms in a particular location, that location is thereafter “safe”, i.e. you can't have your location randomized twice by the same gang.
  4. Police roadblocks don't occupy locations but the “streets” between locations and the number of roadblocks is randomly determined (and unknown) at the beginning of each game.
  5. You only have a pistol with one bullet to exact your brand of street justice on the Wumpus (presumably you put the rest of your bullets in the Wumpus's kidney before he initially got away). In order to kill the Wumpus, you have to “charge” him while firing so you can only kill the Wumpus if you are next to his location. No shooting the Wumpus from five locations away and no crooked bullets. As in the original, once you run out of ammunition, the game is over and you have lost.
  6. The game has an auto-mapping feature. I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it was nice not having to kill trees in order to play the game. On the other hand, going back and forth between the Lisp REPL (read-eval-print loop), to enter the game commands, and a web browser, to view the map, was a bit awkward.
Overall, these differences don't really change the game-play of Grand Theft Wumpus that much from Hunt the Wumpus. Which is a pity because more could have probably been done to update the game besides just slapping on a new theme. For example, while playing the game, it struck me that my biggest concern was not accidentally stumbling upon the Wumpus but running into police roadblocks simply because I didn't know how many there were. How much more would I have worried if these roadblocks actually pursued me as opposed to being static? It's just an idea but something like that could have made the game-play different enough from the original to make Grand Theft Wumpus something more than just Hunt the Wumpus in a nihilistic wrapper. The original was an asymmetrical game of hide-and-seek. Having the police actively hunt the player while the player hunts the Wumpus could have turned the asymmetry up to eleven and added an interesting twist to the game.

Of course, that's pure conjecture.

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