I wrote sort of a technical post for the last checkpoint, so for this one I wanted to do something a little more fun. Earlier this semester I tweeted a link to Thy Dungeon Man, which is a basic text adventure game from Homestar Runner, but for this post I decided to formally explore Thy Dungeon Man 3 instead, as it’s a little more substantial (in keeping with homestarrunner’s sense of humor, of course, there is no Thy Dungeon Man 2). Thy Dungeon Man 3 is interesting not only because of its “state of the art” graphics, but also because of the facetious homage it plays to Colossal Cave Adventure, as well as the text adventure genre as a whole.
The most important facet to Thy Dungeon Man 3 is the fact that although it remains primarily a text adventure (there is some timed clicking required at the end), it also uses graphics in order to illustrate the environments you move through. The game includes an image above the text field for every different “room” environment, and each image is stylized to look as if it is being displayed on an old monitor, which works to give each physical space within the game its own character and memorable elements. Also, items described in the textual description will actually be shown to you so you’ll get more of a hint that you should try to “look” or “get” them, and so you won’t forget they’re there while you’re trying to “look” or “get” something else. Characters with whom you’re allowed to interact also become more memorable, as they are occasionally given full facial sprites that dominate the screen, as seen to the right. That particular character’s name is Fat, Fat Friar, and he tries to eat you because you look tasty.
The most difficult thing for me about Colossal Cave Adventure was being forced to imagine a visual world with such parsimonious description. Of course, it doesn’t take much description of a forest to let me know what I’m in a forest, and I don’t have a problem with that—it’s when I have to start remembering directional orientation and the places of things that I get a little lost without pictures for the sake of visual reinforcement. For example, remembering that X room lies south of Y room, which is west of B room, which is directly outside the room that I’m currently in, is difficult to mentally retain at all times without some sort of visual trigger to jog your memory. Since Thy Dungeon Man 3 not only has different pictures for every area, but also a crossroads with a signpost reminding you where everything is, it is much more accessible to a modern audience.
Thy Dungeon Man 3 also does an excellent job of criticizing, while still celebrating, the medium in which it exists. If you walk behind the poultry sandwich shop, for example, the graphics screen goes completely blank, and the text reads, “Check it out. This street is totally empty and does not continue EAST. There is no PERSON here, nor is there a FLYER on the GROUND. The sammich SHOPPE is to the WEST. Some words are in CAPITAL LETTERS.” The back alley contains no people, no interactive objects, no memorable or relevant characteristics at all–much like the forest in Colossal Cave Adventure–and if you start trying to explore it anyway, the game asserts, “No really, there’s nothing here. It’s almost as if this area were only added to artificially extend the length of this game.”
When I first read this line, my eyelids sank as I realized how much time I wasted in Colossal Cave Adventure trying to find something relevant in the forest. Yep.
Not that I am disparaging Colossal Cave Adventure in any way; it was just funny to have the cause of my frustration pointed out on another platform.
But speaking of pointing things out, in Thy Dungeon Man 3, you’re also able to befriend a bird by feeding it, and then able to use to bird to defeat a troll. This is clearly a reference to the bird and the snake in Colossal Cave Adventure, only here, Thy Dungeon Man 3’s writers decided to pointedly emphasize the absurdity of using a bird to defeat anything larger than a mouse. Instead of the bird simply “defeating” the snake with no explanation whatsoever, in Thy Dungeon Man 3, the bird “attacks” the troll for you by chirping and being really obnoxious, which the troll decides he finds so intensely annoying that he throws himself into the river. The troll then drowns “immediately,” as soon as he touches the water, and the bird “winks” at you as it flies away. It’s absurd and it’s funny, and it makes very little sense, but Thy Dungeon Man 3 is clearly using such absurdities to draw attention to the similar lack of realism in Colossal Cave Adventure.
In short, Thy Dungeon Man 3 is an homage and a pastiche all at once, a fun textual experience as well as a visual one, and its graphics, as well as its humor, are what I believe make it the most accessible.