Monday, 30 April 2012

Game 17: Gold Rush! - By Land or by Sea?

Jerrod Wilson Journal Entry 1: “Just days ago I was content to live my life in Brooklyn, working as a newspaperman for the Evening Star. I’d never considered leaving behind the house my father built and while I’d often repressed feelings of wanderlust that entered my mind, there were simply too many opportunities in Brooklyn to run away from. That's all changed now! Announcements started coming through of a gold rush in California. Many people that previously seemed settled in Brooklyn simply packed up their stuff (or in most cases sold it) and set off with the dream of getting their own piece of the riches on offer. I’m not the type of person to get caught up in such madness, but then a letter arrived from my brother Jake! I haven’t seen him for many years and had begun to think him dead, so the news that he was alive changed everything for me. His letter also hinted that he’d found gold too, so I made the decision to join the flow of hopefuls headed to California. I quit my job, sold my house, withdrew all of my savings from the bank, and have now purchased myself a ticket that will get my as far as Independence, Missouri. I’m currently in a stage coach aboard a ferry with everything I own on my person...which isn’t much.”

We're on a bridge Charlie!

It’s always a good sign when I’d prefer to keep playing a game rather than spend time writing a post about it. There are some games where writing posts has been a fantastic excuse to stop playing because I’m not actually loving the experience (don't worry, I always enjoy games to various degrees, even the bad ones). That’s certainly not the case with Gold Rush! I’ve spent three hours playing the game (split over three sessions) and am really keen to see what happens next, but I also know that if I don’t sit down and start typing, there’ll simply be too much information to get out all at once. As it is, I’ve already got a stack of notes and 61 screenshots to look over, so I better get into it. Before I get stuck into the detail, I’ll start by saying that I can already tell that Gold Rush deserves more credit than it receives. Not only does it push the boundaries of what Sierra’s AGI engine was ever going to be capable of achieving, it also manages to be a rather unique experience at a time where many of the games coming out of Sierra were merely following a blueprint, albeit with different coats of paint being applied.

A nice little house, which apparently belongs to me

My game started in a fairly random location of Brooklyn. Straight away it’s apparent that the creators have spent the time making the town feel like a living, breathing place, rather than an empty shell for goings on that revolve entirely around the protagonist. There are townsfolk wandering around randomly and lots of little details that have little to do with the story or solution, but that certainly help to quickly make me feel part of the game environment. I immediately set off wandering around, forming a map in excel of all available screens the way I always do in Sierra games (that is, when there are enough joining screens to make it helpful). In each screen I typed “look”, and if any particular items or landmarks were mentioned, I tried investigating them directly. I racked up a few points this way by collecting items (a coin and some flowers), and eventually mapped a total of seventeen screens to explore within Brooklyn, including a bank, post office, cemetery, warehouse, livery, travel agent, park and a couple of stores.

Failing to take this advice results in points being deducted from your score

Of particular interest to me was a house in the residential area that apparently belongs to me, so that seemed to be the best place to kick off my journey. On entering the house, I was in for a surprise. All of a sudden Jerrod had increased in size! In fact, he now took on an appearance similar to the characters found in Maniac Mansion. It's not a massive deal. but having the characters given more resolution and focus really helps raise the intimacy of the various goings on that occur behind closed doors. I’ve since discovered that this effect only occurs in the smaller buildings (such as the hardware store, the post office and the travel agent) and not in the larger ones (such as the bank and The Evening Star). I didn’t find much of use in the house, but I did come across of photo album which filled in some of the back-story around my family, particularly the fact that the bank president, named Mr. Quail, looked after Jerrod and Jake after the death of their parents. I took a photo out of the album, and left the house.

Bigger characters isn't a huge advance in technology, but it's a nice touch. Is that a bong on the table?

I knew from my research that Jerrod will at some stage receive a letter from his brother, so my next destination was the post office. As expected, there was some mail waiting for me there, which was a letter from my brother requesting I come quickly to California. The letter finished with the line “P.S. Bring something from home so I will know it’s you”, and I figured that must be the purpose of the photo I took from the album. When I looked at the envelope the letter came in, I noticed a bump under the stamp, which on further inspection turned out to be a gold flake. It appears Jake has found gold! The letter itself has some strange holes in it, which have apparently been cut into it intentionally, but I don’t really know what that might mean at this stage. Shortly after leaving the post office, announcements started to come through that gold had been discovered in California, and everything started to push me towards that path.

This is the LETTER that you RECEIVE from your BROTHER Jake (aka Adam West)

By this stage I’d only been playing for about thirty minutes, but it would be another two and half hours before I was ready to depart Brookville. I quickly found two different paths that I could take, being by coach or by a ship called the Sea Farer, but finding the money to be able to afford tickets on either (the coach costs $950 and the ship costs $2300 or $1800 for a longer route) was really challenging. Unlike the other Sierra game that aimed for realistic situations and factual information, Police Quest, Gold Rush refuses to hold the player’s hand, and lets them figure things out entirely for themself. I literally had to put myself in the shoes of someone in this era wanting to get their own piece of the gold rush to be able to solve anything. What would they do? What would they try to take with them? Who might they speak to?

This notice fails to mention that the ticket prices are ridiculously exorbitant!

The list I came up with was quit their job, sell their house, withdraw all their cash from the bank, and stock up on supplies. I went to the Evening Star, and when I couldn’t find anything else to do, I quit! I received a few points for it, but that was it. I tried to figure out where I might go to sell my house, but there didn’t seem to be an appropriate place. I eventually figured out that you simply need to type “sell house” from literally anywhere in the game for your house to go on the market. It’s an unusual solution but one that’s discovered if you even attempt to talk to anyone (such as the bank manager) about the subject. Once it was on the market, I came across a real estate agent outside the house, who informed me that I’d got myself a lofty $750 for the house my father built. Next step was to head over to the bank to withdraw whatever money was in my account. The bank teller asked me for my account number, which I didn’t know, so I asked to speak to the bank manager.

It's strange that the same horrible light blue interior design keeps popping up in Sierra games, whether they be set in the past, present or future

I’d actually spent a long time speaking to Mr Quail earlier in the game, as I figured his connection to my family must have been mentioned for some reason. It was fairly frustrating to be honest as the game recognises very few requests for information, and I’ve come across the standard Sierra style answers over and over again (“how can you do that”, “what do you mean”, “the word ‘about’ is not recognised” etc.) . Unlike games such as Leisure Suit Larry, where you can ask anything about anything and get an answer (usually a funny one), there is very limited information available at any time when playing Gold Rush. Anyway, his purpose in the game became obvious once I needed an account number, and he happily handed over the number (which is 1!) on request. This gave me access to another $200, taking my total to $965 (I started with $15). Nowhere near enough to get a ticket for the ship, but just enough to get the stage coach.

I was expecting to find a saloon in Brooklyn somewhere. Sadly, there isn't one.

Knowing that Gold Rush is renowned for giving the player multiple pathways to reach the destination, I spent a long time trying to figure out how I might be able to get more money for the ship ticket, but I’m afraid I’ve failed. If there is a way, it has avoided me, so I eventually gave up and purchased my ticket for the coach. That wasn’t the only thing that confounded me during my time in Brooklyn. The hardware store owner informed me that I have an amount of money available on my account to purchase supplies, but not how much. There are many items in the store that seem suited to a life digging for gold, such as a wheelbarrow, rope, shovel, pick, lantern, etc., but I’ve seen nothing that would hint as to which ones I should acquire. I tried various combinations, but none of them resulted in points, so I can only assume it doesn’t matter. I’m beginning to wonder whether the best thing to do is buy none, but I’ve picked up a shovel, a pick and a lantern in case my intuition is wrong, before my account ran dry.

So many things I could buy, no instructions on what I might need!

Having ticked all the boxes in my plan for leaving Brooklyn, I gave my ticket to the man at the livery and hopped on the wagon. I was taken straight to the docks where the coach moved onto a ferry, and a message came up telling me that I’ve got myself only 47 points out of a possible 60 to this point. That seemed a pretty good spot to stop and write a post (wow, that’s three words in quick succession with the same letters!), but it’s got me wondering what I might have missed. More importantly, is there something I haven’t done that’s going to dead end me later on!? It seems to me that the episodic nature of Gold Rush is going to be ideal for the blog, as it puts neat bookends at the end of each section where you guys can all tell me how I’m going. Is it possible to get enough money to take the ship? Is there a way to get aboard without needing that much money? Where are the missing 13 points? The only other thing I’ve done of note is put flowers on my parents tombs in the cemetery, but I’m not going to spend any more time in Brooklyn trying to earn points unless there’s a reason I won’t be able to proceed later. As usual, please use ROT13 for any hints or tips and remember, you could earn yourself imaginary and entirely useless companion assist points!

"Keep trying!!" - Is that another way of saying "Better luck next time?"

Session Time: 3 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 00 minutes


  1. Ah, Gold Rush!
    One of the interesting things here is that the game incorporates some of the stuff that mattered during the real gold rush...
    And if that was too cryptic, here's a smattering of clues:

    Boat tickets: Qhevat gur erny tbyq ehfu, gvzr znggrerq. Vs lbh jrer fybj ba gur hcgnxr, rirelguvat pbfg zber (fhpu nf gvpxrgf gb trg gurer...).

    Points at home: Jurer qb lbh xrrc lbhe onax fgngrzragf?

    Gazebo: Znlor gurer'f zber urer guna whfg tenff gb xrrc bss.

    Newspaper: Arjfcncref hfhnyyl qrnyf va arjf.

    That's what I remember at least, and I really don't think you've stumbled upon a dead end (yet).

    1. Wow! So Gold Rush punishes the player for taking too long to make a move!? I guess I was always going to suffer the consequences since not only do I throroughly map everything out before I try solving anything, I'm also taking screenshots and notes while I'm playing. No wonder I couldn't afford to get the ship.

      It makes total sense and the game even makes comments such as "the tickets were cheaper earlier but now they're...". Past games just haven't trained me to think that way I guess.

      Can you explain your gazebo comment? I found the coin there. Is there something else?

      Oh, and I keep my bank statements online Lars-Erik. ;)

    2. Oh...and that's 10 points for you.

    3. Yeah, I think it's the first appearance of the time you take affecting the game as a whole, not just a limited per-puzzle-reset-timer.

      And I meant the coin, yes.

  2. I'd suggest you make your next post after completing all the routes to California. They are quite short anyway, with the wagon route being really short (and boring) if I remember correctly. You could then compare the different routes, and wouldn't have to worry about replaying them after completing the whole game.

    Sbe gur jntba ebhgr, V qba'g guvax lbh arrq gb ohl nalguvat sebz gur fgberf. Ohg sbe gur bgure ebhgrf, snvyvat gb ohl gur pbeerpg rdhvczrag jvyy erfhyg va n qrnq raq.

    1. Hmmm...makes me wonder what items you'd need to buy if you took the Sea Farer. At this point, I don't plan to start again to try to take the other routes. I'm afraid I'm a bit limited in the amount of time I can actually play the game at the moment, so I'm going to push on.

      I'll check out the alternate paths down the track. 5 points for the equipment info. :)

  3. Gur pbzcnal gung jvyy gnxr lbh guebhtu Nzrevpn vf fubeg ba pnfu, fb gur zber zbarl lbh unir gb pbagevohgr gb gurve pnhfr jura yrnivat Oebbxyla, gur orggre.

    Nyfb, znxr n fnir tnzr whfg orsber tvivat gur gvpxrg gb gur jntba zna va Oebbxyla, orpnhfr gurer'f n punapr lbh'yy pngpu pubyren qhevat lbhe gevc.

  4. The letter: Vf gurer n jnl bs hfvat gur cntr jvgu ubyrf va jvgu gur yrggre? V zrna, vg'f abg arprffnel (gunaxf gb gur vzcbegnag fghss nobhg gur OVT SVAQ jevggra va pncf) ohg creuncf gurer'f fbzr cbvagf gb or unq.

    Since I'd not heard very much about Gold Rush, I'd assumed it wasn't going to be worth playing, but it sounds pretty good! I might have to load it up and give it a shot.

    1. Abg jvgu gur yrggre, whfg xrrc vg sbe yngre.

  5. I haven't read Ilmari or Andy_Panthro's comments yet. I have enough to get by for now and I don't want to know anything about the letter just yet. Unless there's anything I absolutely should know before I kick on...

    1. Awesome. I'll play tonight and post tomorrow.

    2. Oh, hang on... Tb gb gur fgntrpbnpurf bssvpr vzzrqvngryl; vs vg unf yrsg, lbh unir gb erfgber, lbh'er gbb yngr.

      In case you might suspect you're stuck when lbh'er va Fnpenzragb, you might be. :p

    3. If you get safely through the wagon trip, you can read my hints without any fear, because they are mostly just general tips for optimizing your chances of survival during the wagon ride. Here's couple more:

      Znxr fher lbh unir gur orfg fgrrq cbffvoyr - varkcrevraprq navznyf ner abg gb or gehfgrq.

      Gvzvat bs gur wbhearl vf vzcbegnag - V gbyq lbh unq gb jngpu tenff tebjvat.

  6. This game looks awesome! I've never heard of it before. I think I will download and play it soon while waiting for D3.

    Thanks for bringing old titles like this to our attention!