OR, HOW TO DRIVE YOURSELF CRAZY
PLAYING A COMPUTER GAME
BY MICHAEL C. GILBERT
STurgeon General's Warning: playing Gilbert's Challenge has caused laboratory subjects to spend countless hours in front of their monitor attempting to master the intricacies of this seemingly simple game. Symptoms include bloodshot eyes, twitching mouse-button fingers and mumbling, "Just one more marble, please."
|AT A GLANCE|
Gilbert's Challenge is a variation on old peg games such as Hi-Q. The goal is to remove all the marbles on a board save one, scoring extra points if the last marble is in the center position. The twist, and challenge, of this variation is that there are up to five colors of marbles with rules of precedence as to their removal.
A play consists of one marble jumping another. In order to jump, you need two adjacent marbles and an empty hole on the opposite side of the jumped marble for the jumper to occupy. What happens when you jump depends on the colors of the marbles.
The five colors are ranked from highest (white) to lowest (plum). Not all colors will be used during a game, but the colors used will follow the hierarchy. In order to remove a marble from the board, it must be a certain color and it must be jumped by a marble of the same color. In most cases that color is the board's lowest-ranked color. In order to change a marble's color to the next lower rank, jump it with a marble of a color ranked equal to or lower than that of the jumped marble.
For example, if a board uses only the top two colors in the hierarchy-- white (high) and blue (low)--you must convert a marble to blue before you can remove it. Jump a white marble with a white or blue marble to change it to blue. Jump a blue marble with a white marble to change it back to white, because white is higher in the hierarchy. Jump a blue marble with another blue marble to remove it from the board.
If you feel you're up to the challenge, double-click on the archive file GILBERT.PRG and choose Extract when the dialog box appears. Select a destination disk and the files will be un-ARCed directly onto that disk. Make sure that BALLS2.PI1, BALLS3.PI1, CHALLENG.PRG, PEGBOARD.RSC and TITLE.PI1 are in the same folder. To start the program, double-click on CHALLENG.PRG. After a few moments, the title screen will appear. Left-click when you're ready to play.
In Gilbert's Challenge, each level becomes progressively more difficult. At first only one color is used; higher levels have more colors and bigger boards. There are 25 levels with predesigned boards. After that, the computer generates random game boards.
Timer, E: Lives, F:
Level, G: High
Sound easy so far? Well, just to make it a challenge, you have a limited the number of lives, extra rules and traps in the higher levels, and a timer.
Refer to Figure 1, the game's screen layout. Let's discuss each element separately.
Any marble can be moved on the playing board provided there is a neighboring marble to jump over and a free hole to jump into. Left-click on a marble to select it; the marble will turn yellow. Move the mouse cursor over a legal free hole (you don't need to use any mouse buttons) and the marble will automatically jump into the free hole.
To unselect a marble, press [Spacebar]. Press [Undo] or click on Undo under the Options menu to take back the last move made.
You often need extra marbles to complete a board. At any time during play, you can use an extra marble, if available, by left-clicking on it, then placing it into an empty hole on the playing board.
The first four extra marbles don't cost you any points. You can see how many points each additional marble costs by clicking on the scoreboard with the left mouse button. If the marbles cost more than your score they won't be available to you.
Each marble removed from the playing board scores points, according to its color.
Additional points are awarded for the following:
Each second remaining when done.................3 points
Each unused extra marble ...........................50 points
Last marble occupying the center hole.............100 points
Each game is timed. When there are 10 seconds left, a beep sounds each second in warning.
In some configurations, the blitter chip will speed up the timer. If you have a blitter chip, double-check the timer and turn off the blitter chip if you need to.
You start each level with three lives. If you don't complete a board within the allotted time, you lose one life. If you restart a board, you also lose a life. The game ends when you've used up your three lives.
Gilbert's Challenge comes with 25 levels of prefabricated game boards. The higher the level, the more difficult the board.
The high score is the most number of points you earned during the current play session.
The hierarchy gives the order of precedence for a game. Jumping a marble changes its color one step up or down the hierarchy, depending on the color of the jumper.
Click on RESET if you want to restart that level's board without waiting for time to run out. Since it costs one life, it is disabled if only one life remains.
To play Gilbert's Challenge, select one of the four play modes under the Game menu, or click on New Game under the Options menu to begin a game using the current mode. The four play modes are:
Practice: Select any of the 25 prefabricated boards or choose level 99 to practice on a random board in the Advance mode.
Beginner: Play the prefabricated boards starting at level 1.
Advance: Play increasingly difficult random boards as you reach higher levels.
Tournament: Replay an Advance-mode sequence. Since the same boards are repeated, use this mode to play against another person.
As you progress in the game, you'll encounter new tricks to further challenge your skill.
Low Lives: In some cases the lowest color of the board's hierarchy is not the same as the color a marble must be in order to be removed. In this case, the color of the marble will "loop around" when jumped. For example, a plum marble will become white.
All: Sometimes the word ALL is displayed when a board is being set up. This is a warning that all the marbles on that board must be the same color as the lowest marble in the hierarchy before any can be removed. A red dot on the right side of the hierarchy indicates an ALL mode.
Arrows: In the higher levels arrows appear on the board. The hole covered by an arrow will be revealed when the hole to which it points is occupied by a marble. If the marble moves, the hole will be covered once again by an arrow. A black arrow indicates an empty hole; a red arrow means that a marble is hidden behind the arrow. You cannot move a marble onto a hole covered by an arrow.
Study the arrows and plan your strategy during setup. The board will freeze when the arrows are in place; left-click to continue setup.
An impossible play may result from the positioning of multiple arrows. To escape this situation, move the mouse pointer to the marble in the trouble spot. Hold down [Control] while left-clicking on the marble and it will be removed from the board. This will cost you some points.
Flasher: If a marble flashes a short time after being changed to a different color, it must be jumped very soon or it will change back to its original color.
You can create your own game boards using the editor. You must be in Practice mode, playing a game. The editor will not work if the "Game Over" message is displayed. Click on Edit under the Options menu. All five marbles in the hierarchy will be displayed; a blue dot appears at the left of the marble lowest in the board's hierarchy.
To create or modify the board, add or remove marbles. To add a marble, left-click on the desired color in the hierarchy; this marble will turn yellow. Move the mouse to an empty hole and left-click again. A marble fills the hole.
To remove a marble, position the mouse pointer over the unwanted marble and simultaneously hold down the left mouse button and [Control].
Modify the time by mouse-clicking in the time box; left increases time and right decreases it.
Modify the board's lowest hierarchy level by placing the mouse pointer over the desired marble in the hierarchy and simultaneously pressing the left mouse button and [Control].
Load Board and Save Board: These options are only available in Practice mode. They load or save a particular gameboard on disk.
Load SEQ and Save SEQ: These options load or save an entire sequence of boards played in the Advance and Tournament modes. You can replay the exact boards over again.
Load Game and Save Game: These options are the same as Load SEQ and Save SEQ except that your score, high score and all other features are included. These options let you stop at any point and resume at a later time.
Michael C Gilbert is a professional programmer whose sideline is game software. He wrote Cinko (September 1989 START) and Mountain Solitaire (March 1990 START).