Stromlo - Guide to the Game



This game is designed to let you find out for yourself about the Big Bang theory and how it was discovered. You play the role of a young astronomer, recently appointed to a prestigious job at Mt Stromlo Observatory. You have to wander around the mountain, use the telescopes, browse in the library, chat with the other astronomers, and slowly piece together the clues you need to figure out how the universe began.


Pretend that the Big Bang theory hasn’t already been discovered, and try and figure it out for yourself from first principles. Or see if there isn’t some alternative theory that can explain the facts equally well, if not better.


Your Character

You are a bright young astronomer. You have just been awarded your PhD thesis (for research on pulsing stars). This research was so good that you were offered a job at the world famous Mt Stromlo Observatory.

You have just arrived to take up your new job. You are standing in your new office, wondering what to do now. You don't feel like unpacking - you are keen to start on some research.

 You might wander around and do a bit of exploring. You could visit the library and see if there's anything interesting in the latest journals. Perhaps it would be a good idea to log on to your new computer and check for e-mails. Or maybe you should wander around and introduce yourself to some of the other staff and see what their research interests are.


Playing the Game

This game is an example of the genre of ‘interactive fiction’. It’s a bit like reading a novel, except that you are able to influence what goes on. You are presented with a series of places, people and situations, and by typing commands on the computer can influence what happens.

This is a text-based computer game – no fancy graphics here (we didn’t have the multi-million dollar budget needed to produce most modern games). Instead, you must read the descriptions and type in your commands.

You can move around Mt Stromlo Observatory by typing the direction (eg. west) in which you want to go. You can interact with people by telling them things (eg. tell Chubb about the toilets) or asking them about things (eg. ask Howard about the budget). Time only passes in response to your commands – you can spend as much time as you like thinking about things. And you can always undo any decisions you made and try again.


Communicating with the game.

In this game, you type commands in plain English every time you see the prompt >. It will usually act as if your sentence begins with “I want to …”, though you shouldn’t actually type that. When you have finished typing a command, hit the return or enter key and the game will process your request. It will tell you whether your request was possible at this point in the story, and what happened as a result.


Here are some of the commands you might want to use. The computer understands many more, but these should get you started.


You will sometimes learn of events due to take place in the future (eg someone might tell you about a funky party scheduled for that night). Don’t worry about missing events like this – as long as you have your watch on you, the game will automatically remind you of all relevant events in good time. You can type “wait for seminar” or some such if you want to skip ahead to that event.


Clever though the game is, it will not recognise all the words you can type (if it could, I’d be off in Stockholm collecting a Nobel Prize for artificial intelligence, not here…). But if it doesn’t recognise something you’re trying to tell it, odds are it isn’t important.


The game keeps a log of everything you see, in a file called stromlo_log.txt. Feel free to read this file at any point to remind yourself of what’s been happening. It’s just a simple text file and can be read with any word processor. It also generates a file called stromlo_templog.txt which is just a log what’s happened since you most recently started up the game.


The Screen

There is a status bar (a black bar with white letters) along the top of the game window, which tells you how you are doing. To the left it tells you your current location. To the right it gives two numbers, the first being your score so far, the second being the number of turns that have passed. So 2/35 means that you have scored two points in thirty five turns.