Let's Be POKYFRIENDS

Closer Look: Nightplanet

June 24, 2017, 1:29 a.m.

Where can I get Nightplanet

Nightplanet is available on z2 as well as playable in browser via Archive.org.
You can also explore the world yourself on the Museum of ZZT Public Beta along with the other entries to the Summer 1998 24 Hours of ZZT contest.

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Nightplanet

By: Myth
Released: Jul. 10, 1998

Today's game is one which probably won't show up on anybody's list of important ZZT worlds, and yet it's an award winner. Myth's Nightplanet is a notable title not so much because of the world itself, which is a perfectly playable adventure, but because of the constraints under which it was produced.

In the Summer of 1998, Mono had decided to host the first ever 24 Hours of ZZT contest. The contest was exactly as it sounded. Participants would be given a topic and expected to submit a complete ZZT game created in a span of 24 hours. This wasn't a completely original idea, as the MegaZeux community would hold its first "Day of Zeux" competition which had the same strict time requirements a few weeks before the ZZT equivalent. The 24HoZZT or 24HoZ became a community staple, typically being ran four times per year with the winner of the previous event being expected to organize its followup. Like any ZZT community endeavor this of course became rife with drama and complaints over how things were being ran, biased judges, and lousy topics.

Still, despite the difficulties the contest ran from Summer 1999 through Autumn 2003! The contest was a major part of the ZZT community and always drew large numbers of entrants (albeit far fewer submissions). Of course, if you ask anyone who's participated in a modern day game jam it's easy to understand why. A single day is not a lot of time to make a game, and while ZZT is honestly probably the best medium out there for getting rapid and playable results, it's still a huge undertaking.

So today I've decided to play Myth's Nightplanet, the winner of the first ever 24 Hours of ZZT contest. The topic chosen by mono was "Night". According to the Interactive Fantasies 24 Hours of ZZT Archive, it was judged by Creator, Kev Vance, and xf. Eighteen entries were received. A lot of early 24 HoZZT data has been lost to time, such as the judges scorecards, and here one of the games was corrupt and hasn't been recovered since. The efforts of Interactive Fantasies members in curating their own small archive for these games shows some nice foresight in recognizing their importance.

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Myth wisely played it safe and went with the most basic title screen she possibly could. We get a name, an author, a warning that the game was produced after consuming orange fanta, and a "19" in the corner.

The 19 is the game's ID number. These were either given out or chosen by the authors on signup and have no real purpose. Day of Zeux contests would frequently use them and require the games be published anonymously to prevent bias in judging (though they didn't for this very first DoZ which was so close to the first 24HoZ..). ZZTers never bothered with the anonymity, but kept the numbers.

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the game begins
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
--
nightplanet
by myth

made for the July 1998 24 Hours of ZZT
competition

contact: myth@inquo.net

note: this ended up being a puzzle game,
despite my best efforts.  Of course,
since it's also a 24 Hours of ZZT entry,
it's not beta-tested very well.  These
two game attributes do not go well
together, so please feel free to go in
and edit anything so you can finish the
game.  You can get a complete walkthrough
from me if you need it.  Thanks!

(c) 1998 by myth
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The game first opens with a nice introduction scroll setting the scene. The player takes on the role of a galactic trader who is currently free of deliveries and with plenty of time to kill. Myth does a good job throughout Nightplanet of establishing atmosphere through her writing and I wouldn't be surprised if the authors made note of it. On such a short time limit writing is going to be much faster than attempting to convey this information via graphics, and Myth shows a lot of ability in creating a compelling atmosphere through writing.

Of course, the game is still a rush job as any game made in 24 hours will be. There's a typical ZZTer apology for bugs and permission to edit the game if needed to make sure it can be completed. Fortunately Myth created a cohesive game in this time and no such editing or cheating will be necessary.

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Of course, just as I say how Myth focused on essentials I get to point out the nice little details.

The ship is a simple enough design with nothing too fancy. It does have some animated thrusters which flicker red/yellow/white while changing character to create a fire effect. In addition, the stars on the background are objects which walk until they hit a wall, turn themselves invisible, walk back to the top of the screen, reappear, and begin moving again. Staggering a few objects like this creates a simple illusion of movement and the two combine to make it look like the ship is actually flying through space. Both these effects were pretty common in worlds set in space.

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Exploring the consoles gives us some insight into the kind of person Mentu is. He's knowledgeable in modifying and maintaining his ship by his lonesome.

But more importantly, there's a mysterious transmission his ship is picking up! Having nothing better to do Mentu opts to investigate. The player is given the opportunity to explore the rest of the ship if they haven't rather than force the game's story to progress immediately which is certainly nice.

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The left cargo bay is full of nothing but junk. Exploring the second one brings up some more information about the ship.

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"Comfort must be sacrificed for profit". Space capitalism blows.

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Message
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
...

mining station khons
code seventeen, system failure

...

request assistance

...

location 66°s 139.1°e
system athena planet five
upr registry 09142887

...

request assistance

...

Mentu looks up Athena 5 in the UPR
database.  The following information
appears:

--
Athena system planet 5

atmosphere type 3 (O2.Ar.H2O)
gravity type 3 (1.1g)

    equatorial diameter: 14044km
mean distance from star: 212Gkm
        sidereal period: 451 days
  axial rotation period: 27:12:09
              axis tilt: 84.22°
--

This is interesting, thinks Mentu.  A
planet with a breathable atmosphere and
an 84.22 degree tilt.  With a tilt that
far, half of the planet would face the
sun all the time and half would face the
stars all the time.  A nightplanet, as
they are called in space parlance.  But
why would a mining station be located
in the southern hemisphere of such a
planet, where it would be cold night
forever?

Mentu then searches for "Khons" in the
database.  After a few moments it returns
an entry from its backfile:

--
khons mining station
location: Athena 5
date established: 1032.2133
complement: 30
main export: tritactinum alloys

addendum 1126.2135: no response to
station communication requests
--

Even more interesting, thinks Mentu.
Tritactinum alloy -- one of the more rare
metals in existance.  This nightplanet
must have had quite a lode to warrant
a station on its dark side.  It looks
as if the station was abandoned, too --
almost a hundred years ago.  Perhaps
there is some surplus metal left over that
might be salvageable.

Mentu thinks about it and realizing that
he has nothing better to do, decides to
check it out.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

There's a big info dump but it quickly gets all the background information that the player's going to need. There's a distress signal coming from a mining facility on a planet half shrouded in perpetual night. It's been broadcasting the signal for a century and likely has some salvageable tritactinum which can be worth quite a bit. Mentu's search for profit begins.

I don't think the science is right here? The tilted axis is what causes seasons. For a planet to have a dark side its rotational period should be the same as its orbital period. I may be horribly wrong on this. Whether or not the science works out isn't important however. What is important is that the environment is extremely harsh and for a mine to have been worthwhile, it must also be extremely profitable.

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This scene is really well composed, managing to keep the structure's form even when using black on a starry black background by having the dark blue windows still visible on the darker portion of the building. Mentu's ship is also animated and the player can watch it fly downward and land at the structure.

Myth's sparse scenery like this works out wonderfully when working with a constrained time limit and is enhanced by her writing giving a feeling of emptiness and abandonment to the planet from just this one board.

station landing
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
As Mentu steps out of his ship, he almost
chokes on the stale air.  Apparently
the air-processing unit hasn't been
working since the station was abandoned.
Additionally, the air is cold -- it
can't be more than 5 degrees centigrade
in the station.  That's better than the
-150 degress outside, but still . . .

The looks of the station seem just as
ancient and cold as the air.  The walls
ground seem untended and dusty, their
apathetic grey seeming almost haunting.
Something went wrong on this station.
Something bad.  Mentu is sure of that.

Mentu is also sure that he wants to
get out of here as soon as possible.
His objective is just to find a
tritactinum store and leave.
#end
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

This is no rescue mission. The station has long since been abandoned and become devoid of life. It's cold (41 degrees Fahrenheit), difficult to breathe, and not a particularly friendly place. The objective is simple. Find something valuable and leave.

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Myth keeps on building up the suspense. The player will see the scroll message about the security system before really getting a look at the board. When they do, they'll see a few split paths all of which require the player to funnel through narrow chokepoints.

Mentu, as well as the player, have no idea what happened on the station and combining that with the chokepoints makes what would otherwise seem like an empty room become a potential threat. Will an alarm go off and activate some security robots? Are there aliens watching? Some sort of plague? It's dark and it's cold and the player has nothing to do but face their face and venture into the station.

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Nothing happens after crossing security, but there's not really any relief. At some point the player is going to run into _something_.

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And the first something is a lot of skeletons. Whatever happened here happened quickly if there are bodies littering the main lobby.

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Investigating, Mentu can see a faint glow on each skeleton. This one has an added detail about their arm.

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document
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
This document is headed "report from
doctor dunedin on unidentified lifeform
in tritactinum mines."  The date is
1225.2135.  Mentu skims through the
document.

--
It was previously thought that no
lifeform could survive in the southern
hemisphere of a nightplanet, due to the
extreme cold temperatures and extreme
wind speeds.  The lifeform recently
discovered in the tritactinum mines seem
to contradict this theory . . .

. . . the creatures visually resemble
insects of some sort.  However their
internal structure is very different from
the insects we are familiar with.
Specifically, they seem to have no
organs for the collection, digestion
or excretion of food; instead, there are
chlorophyll-like cells that seem to
feed on energy of any sort . . .

. . . given enough energy and carbon
material, the creatures seem to be able
to metabolize and reproduce at
astonishing rates.  Though, as previously
mentioned, the creatures create no
excretia, they do produce a fine violet
dust.  As of yet I am unsure of the
origin of this phenomenon . . .

. . . I am no expert on evolutionary
biology, but I would expect that these
animals (or plants, as the case may
be -- they seem to defy definition in
this regard) may be the remnants of
a species that existed long ago, before
the planet had been turned on its side
by an asteroid impact (as is our current
theory regarding the axis position of
this planet).  Perhaps they were able
to survive in a dormant state in the
planet's crust. . .

. . . in conclusion, I see no threat
from these creatures as long as they
are kept "in the dark," as it were.
Without energy, they are harmless.
--

Mentu rubs his chin thoughtfully.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

It's not an abandoned and dead space colony without documents lying around. Nightplanet reveals itself to be a classic "We dug too deep" story. The mine unearthed some insect-like creatures that feed on energy. They reproduce extremely rapidly when given energy, but otherwise are harmless.

So uh, guess what happened.

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There's a locked white door blocking this room that appears to be full of wreckage. The sign says that it's a high voltage area. The other exits are labeled with signs as well. North are the systems, east are nodes one and two, and to the south are the quarters.

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Mentu picked the wrong planet to land on.

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The crew quarters are simple bedrooms with nothing more than a few beds and a desk in each of them (if even that). The player can see that they're almost all empty, but one of them is full of more skeletons.

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The room full of dead crew has the name Anubis written on it. The door is locked, as are all the others. The other skeleton has no special message so it's time to explore another portion of the station.

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The eastern nodes lead down to the mines, but conveniently both of them have several chunks of tritactinum ore for Mentu to collect.

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The player is actually asked if they want to pick it up before doing so, and can't hold more than one at a time.

The only other thing of interest in the room are the controls, but they're all currently powered down like the rest of the station's systems. Well, there is a passage into the mines...

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NOPE.

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It is time to go home now!!

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Oh god.