During the early years of interactive fiction, the art of dealing with one's inventory was a novel and often tricky concept. Often times one had to be resourceful enough to combine disparate objects, use them in out-of-context situations, and on more than one occasion resort to using household items as weapons of mass destruction. When a problem was met that could not be solved immediately, it was frequently the case that a newly-discovered item served as an epiphany within itself. For this reason, gamers learned quickly to type GET $EVERYTHING in every situation and, on the advent of point-and-click strategy games, clicked everything thrice for good measure. Hoarding items became as important a skill as the most complex puzzle-solving abilities.

With this in mind, a number of early games - the Zork series being particularly heinous offenders - did not require you to use every item you acquired to beat a game. There were multiple solutions, shortcuts, and a number of items which were only useful in so far as they kept you alive. In particular, many games required you to eat and drink within a certain number of turns or distance traveled, lest your onscreen character starve to death. Apparently a number of gamers complained about this too-realistic routine, and it was more or less dropped from strategy games at some point. However, the food and drinks themselves remained, containing important clues or providing solutions to various puzzles (drink the potion to fly, eat the meat to acquire the bone, etc.) in order to win the game.

Ken and Roberta Williams' fifth addition to their highly-recommended King's Quest series was marked by a number of new features, all of which paled in comparison to the use of voice acting, a first for point-and-click adventure gaming. The title was a big hit among PC gamers, though of course it was not without its flaws. However, by far, the biggest flaw in the game itself was not the result of poor programming or technical mischief, but rather an amalgamation of false expectations of the average player, the increased demand for total player freedom by the gamer market, and the cold story logic of the game itself.

In short: don't eat the pie.

Early in the game, the main character, King Graham, was provided with a pie from the local town bakery. Some players simply scarfed down the pie, to no obvious detriment. They continued on, battling their way through foreign lands, deadly deserts, and underwater dangers. Finally, they arrived at a showdown between Graham and an Abominable Snowman. How did you defeat him? By using the pie, of course. "But I already ate the pie," the gamer laments, "and I don't have a saved game file from before I ate the pie!" Poor King Graham ...

Of course, players claimed this was unfair. Eating the pie should cause King Graham's head to explode! (Or, at the very least, give him a fatal case of gas.) Other players chided their friends for not keeping several save files in rotation (a fairly common, but not required, practice for adventure games.) However, everyone in the industry generally agreed that it was bad practice for a) point-and-click games to become unwinnable and b) for the character of an adventure game to die. Although Sierra never relented on point B, in all of their future games of the King's Quest, Space Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry series, decisions made early in the game could affect the overall outcome of the game, but never threatened the winnability of the entire gameplay itself.

Eventually, of course, as interactive fiction games became less common in the gamer's marketplace and were in turn taken over by freeware enthusiasts and volunteer coders, point B also vanished into the history of adventure gaming, with games such as Day of the Tentacle, Escape from Monkey Island, and an ever-increasing market of low-budget, freely distributed point-and-click adventures subjecting the main character to less tortured scenarios and more open gameplay - if you ate the pie, another one was made available at the bakery. Problem solved.

So, was it a design flaw? Bad logic circuitry? Or was it simply an "asking for it" consequence of poor in-game decision-making and even poorer environment management by the user? As the old joke goes, "50 million stupid people can't be wrong..."

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