The Prisoner (computer game)


The Prisoner (computer game)

Infobox VG
title = The Prisoner


developer = David Mullich
publisher = Edu-Ware
version =
released = vgrelease|NA=1980
genre = Adventure game
modes = Single-player
ratings =
platforms = Apple II
media = 5¼" disk
requirements = Applesoft, 48K RAM
input = Keyboard

"The Prisoner" is a 1980 Apple II computer game produced by Edu-Ware. The game was loosely based upon the 1960s television series "The Prisoner" and incorporates the show's themes about the loss of individuality in a technological and controlling society. The player assumes the role of a presumed intelligence agent who has resigned his job for reasons known only to himself and then is abducted to an isolated island community that seems designed to be his own personal prison. The island's authorities will go to any means -- coercion, propaganda, disorientation, allegory and frustration -- to learn why their prisoner has resigned, and every character, location and supposed escape route appears to be part of a grand deception to get players off their guard and reveal the three-digit code that represents the prisoner's reason for resigning. The game occasionally broke the fourth wall by acknowledging that the player was playing a game, blurring the line between game and reality.

Considered unique among games of this sort, "The Prisoner" was reportedly used as a training tool for Central Intelligence Agency agents.cite journal |last=Paula |first=Polley |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1983 |month=May |title=Playing Games with the CIA |journal=Atari Connection |volume= |issue= |pages=28 |id= |url= |accessdate= |quotes= ]

In 1982, Edu-Ware released a remake, "Prisoner 2", with color and improved graphics (all high-resolution now) as well as additional game elements that satirized other adventure games.

Themes

The game's documentation described Edu-Ware's view that the "Prisoner" television series was "a political and social statement concerning the problem of keeping one's individuality and personal freedom in a technological society... [which] is a collective prison and each one of us is, in fact, a prisoner." With the year 1984 ominously being only five years away from the game's publication, Edu-Ware believed that many of the issues raised in the 1969 television series were still just as relevant and that it seemed "appropriate that a show concerned with the theme of loss of individuality and influence over their own lives should inspire a game to be played on a computer."

Differences between the TV series and the game

The game was reportedly not officially licensed, with the documentation claiming that "it is not meant to be an adaption of the television series" (although its packaging used the same logo as the series), so a number of changes were made to distance the game from a few of the more recognizable "Prisoner" elements while preserving its spirit and message:

* The television show's protagonist is called Number 6, while the game's protagonist is referred to as # (the "number sign" in the United States and Canada).
* In the television show, Number 6 is kidnapped from his home and taken to an isolated community called The Village. In the game, he is transported from an airport to The Island.
* The protagonist's residence in the Village is in a building with the number six on the door. The analogous building on The Island is called the Castle, although it too is labeled with the number 6.
* The authority figure in the Village is called Number 2. On the Island, he is called The Caretaker, although the building in which The Caretaker is encountered is labeled with the number 2.

Gameplay

The game begins with the player being told that # has resigned his job for reasons known only to himself. The player is given a three-digit number, which signifies #'s reasons for resigning. The player is warned never to reveal this number, for the game later attempts at numerous times to trick the player into revealing or responding to the number, which will cause the player to lose the game. The player is then taken to an airport, where he is asked to select from a number of island destinations (e.g., Hawaii) to travel to. Regardless of his choice, he is taken to The Island.

The game's designer, David Mullich, incorporated elements of Franz Kafka's "The Castle" into the Island. In fact, #'s home on the Island is called the Castle. It takes the form of a randomly generated maze from which the player must escape, although pressing the computer's escape key will allow him to instantly escape the maze.

After leaving the Castle, the player can explore the twenty homes, shops and service buildings there, trying to find clues as to how to escape. Only four of these structures are displayed on the screen at any one time, and in the center of the group is a Free Information display providing information of little value, with the exception of a running tally of how many credit units the player has in the bank. Each of the buildings offer different gameplay experiences, although some of the buildings require the player to own certain possessions before entering, are rearranged each time # is sent back to the Castle, may disappear from the game periodically, or cannot be entered because of special game events:

# The Hospital, where # is given psychological tests.
# Caretaker's Residence, where # carries on an ELIZA-style conversation with the leader of the Island (during which it is possible to nearly replicate the "Where am I?"/"In the Village" dialogue from the opening of most "Prisoner" episodes).
# Town Hall, where # spends some time running The Island in a fashion very similar to (but long predating) "Sim City". Successfully running The Island (the definition of "success" being very broad in this instance) results in # receiving a gold watch.
# Great Chair, where # fulfills the initial assignment given to him by an underground resistance group calling itself The Brotherhood.
# Carnival, where # can use a see-saw to make an escape attempt or fulfill an assignment for The Brotherhood.
# Castle, where # returns after each failed escape attempt, literally being sent back to square one. Arrival in the Castle represents a new day or adventure on the Island. To exit the Castle, the player must correctly identify himself/herself; the correct answer is # but it's also possible to be tricked into selecting the resignation code.
# Bank, where # can deposit or withdraw money, or take out a loan after going on a scavenger hunt to retrieve items symbolic of business success.
# Courthouse, where # can play a game of hangman based on words about freedom and individuality.
# Theater, which shows propaganda films using nursery rhymes, but is also a meeting place for The Brotherhood.
# General Store, where # can purchase items required to enter buildings or fulfill quests.
# News Stand, which provides game clues and where # can fulfill an assignment for The Brotherhood involving changing a newspaper headline.
# Library, where # is tested to his susceptibility to propaganda, including subliminals, tranditional values, and advertising techniques. Losing the test results in a book being burned, while winning is rewarded with reference to a page in the Applesoft Manual containing a clue for winning the game.
# Schoolhouse, where correctly remembering number sequences will reward # with a diploma.
# Cat and Mouse Bar, where # can play a game of ping pong to win drinks. After consuming too many drinks, # will suffer hallucinations, including one that will result in # being accused of murder.
# Church, where the player can engage in another ELIZA-style conversation with a priest, be rewarded with a cross, or be absolved of murder.
# Clothing Store, where # can purchase clothing required to enter buildings or fulfill quests.
# Milgram Experiment, where # is asked to participate in the infamous Milgram experiment, in which he and the Caretaker switch identities and is required to give electric shocks to the prisoner in an attempt to get him to reveal his resignation code.
# Recreation Hall, where # can go through several obstacle courses to escape into the wilderness area surrounding the Island. Here the player will be captured by Rover and sent back to the Castle unless he can make it to a train station, which offers a chance for escape.
# Gemini Diner, where for 10,000 credits, # can make a clone of himself for use in an escape attempt.
# Slot Machines, which can win # possessions, clues, or another chance of escape.

Very few of the above locations provide any sort of instruction to the player as to how to proceed. This is particularly the case with locations such as the Cat and Mouse Bar and Great Chair

Throughout these scenarios, game utilizes several different graphic styles. The game is usually presented in a "top-down" view mode, with abstract representations of the different homes and businesses, while the player is represented by the # sign. Several segments of the game make use of all-text screens with limited animations (as much as the Apple was able to execute with text); other segments of the game used the Apple's low-resolution and high-resolution graphics modes.

At any point during these various scenarios, the game might try to trick the player into revealing the three-digit number. One of the most nefarious of these tricks was a simulated game crash which included the error message "Syntax error in line ###" where the line number was the player's resignation code. The significance of this is that this was a commonly seen error message in the Apple II's BASIC programming language; out of pure habit, the next step most users would take at this point would be to investigate the erroneous line to try and correct the error, using the command "List ###" where ### once again is the line number. Typing the game's three-digit code at any time resulted in the game being lost, and that included typing the line into the BASIC command as, unknown to the player, the game was still running. Ironically, as the game was difficult to beat, being able to list the program from within the game was one way to ultimately solve and win the game by the means of reading and analyzing the program and deducing a solution. However, such a solution was entirely within the spirit of the game, as the game's clues and ultimate solution sometimes broke the fourth wall with an acknowledgement that the player was playing a computer game.

In addition, there were times where the player could hit the escape key (by accident or on purpose), and the message "Such thoughts are punishable" would appear screen and the game returned # to the starting point in The Castle (though the game itself does not restart). However, sometimes pressing the escape key does help the player in a particular situation, since the game rules are constantly in flux, in a purposeful attempt to frustrate the player.

Prisoner 2

Infobox VG
title = Prisoner 2


developer = Edu-Ware
publisher = Edu-Ware
designer = David Mullich (designer)

series =
engine =
version =
released = vgrelease|NA=1982
genre = Adventure game
modes = Single Player
ratings =
platforms = Apple II, Atari 8-bit, IBM PC
media = 5¼" disk
requirements = Apple II: Applesoft, 48K RAM
input = Keyboard

In 1982, Edu-Ware released a second version of the game titled "Prisoner 2", with color and improved graphics (all high-resolution now) that replaced the original version's top down perspective with a first-person view. Although sometimes considered a sequel due to its title, the game was in fact essentially the same as the first "Prisoner" game, with a few revisions (as well as the new graphics).

In addition to the graphical improvements, there are design changes, several of which referenced to other games:
* A fence that the player may attempt to jump over now surrounds the Island.
* Rover's appearance is changed from a white ball to a character resembling Pac Man.
* The Hospital is home to the Millgram Experiment, as a special game event that occurs periodically.
* The Free Information display is moved to the Town Hall, which still houses the Run the Island task, but only as a special game event that occurs periodically.
* The Recreation hall has expanded obstacle courses.
* The Great Chair has been moved into a many-roomed building called The Switchyard. Most rooms are identical except for a single letter on the wall, which together spell out "Rubik Cube". Three rooms are special: the Great Chair, the switch room (in which the titular switch could turn off the melody that accompanied scrolling game text), and the exit.
* The Library sends the player on literary-themed quests for the "Wicked Witch of the West's" broomstick or Injun Joe's treasure (from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer") if he chooses not to burn books.
* The building that formerly housed the Millgram Experiment is renamed Grail Hall, which contains items for the Library quests. It is a maze of rooms, including ones that mimicked the look of Scott Adams' adventure games, or referenced such adventure games as "Colossal Cave Adventure" (a cave with the word "PLUGH" inscribed on the wall), "Wizard and the Princess" (a castle, whereupon at his arrival, the player is sent back to The Castle), and "Mystery House" (whereupon his arrival, the player is told "He's killed Ken!" -- Ken Williams of Sierra On-Line -- and is accused of murder until he finds absolution in the Church).

Another nod to the video game industry is the newspaper headline that reads "ZONING COMMISSION WILL NOT BUDGE TO ALLOW PINBALL IN BARS", an obvious reference to Bill Budge, creator of "Pinball Construction Set".

Released near the end of the Apple II's dominance of the US home computer market, "Prisoner 2" was not as successful as the first game.Dubious|date=March 2008

Reception

"The Prisoner" was very popular among the gaming press. "Peelings II" magazine awarded the game an A+, its highest rating, and noted that if only the game had featured high-resolution graphics, it would have been a candidate for its Game of the Year Award.cite journal |last=Martellaro |first=John |authorlink= |coauthors= |year= |month= |title=The Prisoner |journal=Peelings II |volume=2 |issue=1 |pages=32–33 |id= |url= |accessdate= |quotes= ] According to "Softalk", "What puts this game head and shoulders above other adventures is that while the player is seeking the information needed to escape from the Island, the computer is actively seeking the information that will make the player lose the game. The dual challenges of learning about the Island while avoiding the subtle and not-so-subtle traps laid by the computer make the game both interesting and exciting".cite journal |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1981 |month=March |title=The Prisoner |journal=Softalk |volume= |issue= |pages=33 ] "The Prisoner" was also popular among gamers, who voted it the third most popular adventure game of 1981 in the annual Softalk reader poll.cite web |url=http://apple2history.org/history/appy/aha81.html#1981 |title=Appendix A: Apple II Software Hits, 1981|accessdate=2006-09-25 |author= |last=Weyhrich |first=Steven |authorlink= |date= |year= |month= |format= |work=Apple II History |publisher= |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate=] , while "Prisoner 2" was voted the fourth most popular fantasy game in the 1982 poll.cite web |url=http://apple2history.org/history/appy/aha82.html#1982 |title=Appendix A: Apple II Software Hits, 1982|accessdate=2006-09-25 |author= |last=Weyhrich |first=Steven |authorlink= |date= |year= |month= |format= |work=Apple II History |publisher= |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate=]

References

External links

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