Time Zone: Dirt Quest

time_zone-caesarWithout a doubt, the one game I know that was most influenced by Time Zone is Legend Entertainment’s Timequest, a 1991 graphic adventure by Infocom alumnus Bob Bates. Whether the influence is direct or indirect, I don’t know. But Time Zone and Timequest share an overall structure, based on a grid of location/time period combinations, as well as a few specific scenes: both games contain run-ins with Robin Hood, Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar. The encounter with Caesar in particular reminded me of Timequest: in both games, you get an audience with him through a victory in the arena. What you do with that audience differs, however. In Timequest you need to be on hand to prevent an assassination attempt — not because you want Caesar to live, but because history requires him to be assassinated later. Whereas in Time Zone, you need to borrow his ladder. 1That is, steal it.

This is a common adventure game device: heroic efforts to obtain mundane household items. Timequest isn’t completely innocent of this particular crime against mimesis either. What makes it particularly absurd in this game is that you actually have the option of visiting your home in the present whenever you like. There, realistically, you would have easier ways to obtain a ladder (and a canteen, and a flashlight…) It’s just one of those adventure game things, stemming from the genre’s origins. In a cave crawl, it makes a certain amount of sense: if you’re trapped in the Dungeons of Doom, you have to make do with whatever tools you can find in situ, and a ladder could be a major find. Likewise for various other settings: desert islands, post-apocalyptic ruins, and in general the sort of isolated and solitary environments that adventures have always found most comfortable.

It’s a common enough syndrome that it really should have a name, but it doesn’t seem to have one. I suggest “dirt quest”: questing after something that is, or should be, as common as dirt in the game’s milieu.

1 That is, steal it.

4 Comments so far

  1. Mike Kay on 18 Jun 2008

    I have tried Time Zone several times but always seem to get an error on disk 5i that locks up the game.

    Please tell me which Apple II emulator you use and where you found the timezone disk images.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 19 Jun 2008

    The emulator I used is called Apple //e Emulator. Yeah, I know, it’s a bad name, tough to google for. The copyright notice mentions Michael O’Brian and Oliver Schmidt, so that should narrow things down for you.

    I got the disk images from a retail copy of the Roberta Williams Anthology, a CD-ROM package published in 1997.

    The Roberta Williams Anthology also contains the Apple emulator, but I’m not sure if the version I used was the one from the Anthology or a later version that I got off the web.

  3. Mike Kay on 21 Jun 2008

    Thanks so much for the response! One last question, which version of Apple //e Emulator were you running? I have found many different versions, one I have tried with no luck.

    Thanks in advance!

  4. Mike Kay on 23 Jun 2008

    Got it! You must use an older version of the emulator (ie. the one that comes with Roberta Williams Anthology works).

    Thanks again for your help!

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