17 June 2009

Reflections: ADRIFT IntroComp Entries, 2009

Reflections on my own entries [WARNING: SPOILERS].
Reviews of other entries may come later.

6th place: “No Such Thing”
Inspired by Sandy’s Lost Doll (I thoroughly encourage Sandy to release another game, if she feels up to it... shame we haven't seen her around the forum) and Richard Otter's Vague, No Such Thing intended to explore unimplementation as a possibly useful trope in interactive fiction rather than just an aggravation. To do that, I tried to make unimplementation significant to the game’s storyline, so that it actually became one of the driving forces of the plot rather than an obstacle to it. In this case, the messages intent on informing the player of unimplementation (such as the canonical “You see no such thing.”) are not for the player only. Revgiblet hit the nail on the head when he said, “The struggle of the protagonist to interact with his world is the whole point” (emphasis added). Somehow, thanks to the magic of text, the PC literally sees and yet does not see or is otherwise inexplicably constrained from action, and suffers something of a breakdown at the inconceivability of his or her situation.

This intro has four possible endings: one is triggered by looking at, trying to pick up, or opening almost any object four times (does not have to be the same object each time). Another is triggered by going north, then down, and typing “kill npc” (although it is recommended the player “talk to npc” once or even twice before for full effect/explanation). The third is triggered by looking at the ghlegh’hel. The final, super-secret ending should only be available if you are able to open the game in the generator/debugger and set the “secret” task to “completed.” On further consideration, a player could theoretically just type in the secret task at any time, since it lacks a #, but I won’t mention what that task is so that breaking into the game is still required for the ultimate anti-climax (the command for which would also have to be looked up in the generator/debugger).

Also note that your spouse will return from outside if you just wait. If you keep waiting, you’ll get a further hint about where the game might go later.

While I can’t answer with certainty, No Such Thing probably won’t make it into a full game. As it is, its primary gimmick doesn’t really have the resilience to extend over much more than the intro… i.e., I think it gets old far too fast. If I can think of some way to keep it alive, inject some flexibility or other sort of longevity into it, then maybe. If you think it has more resilience than I think it does, let me know (and if you don’t, let me know). On the other hand, it might be easy enough to finish that I’ll go ahead and do it anyway.

The title “Dish Duty” was meant solely to mislead players into thinking that something was actually wrong when they couldn’t “wash dishes”. Apologies to any who are still confused.

5th place: “To End All Wars”
I mentioned in the forum that this game was inspired from watching All Quiet on the Western Front the previous summer. I started writing TEAW as an RPG— which I believe I also mentioned on the forum— where the player could generate their own character based on four stats (marksmanship, esteem, nerve, and fortitude), or generate a random character (a system which turned out to take over 400 tasks by itself). I actually turned in a transcript for a final grade, with which my professor seemed pleased.

Months later it started to become blatantly apparent that the RPG elements made the game too bulky & expansive for me to realistically expect to finish, so I scrapped them and decided to go with a more linear story. Specifically, I had originally thought I’d create a separate storyline for players who started with 1 in their fortitude stat— that has now become the main storyline. However, I still expect this thing to have several possible endings— opening the story file in the generator will reveal the intro alone has ten possible endings [beginnings?], three of which are deaths that end the game. Thanks to Thingamus, it will now have eleven (since the chocolate nutcake & sugar cubes are now edible, and result in another mustard gas scene).

I fully intend to finish this game, but who knows how long it’ll take? If you happen to be a history buff (or otherwise) and notice some sort of inconsistency, or you think some sort of functionality should be added to it (With the shovel for instance, have you tried to “fix trench”, “hit corporal with shovel”, or “dig” after Smythe gets blown up? Have you tried to “shoot self”? “Slap Smythe”?), please let me know. Some small problems with this intro still need to be fixed, for example eating Smythe should not be allowed on the third turn (only the fourth). I would also like to sprinkle period music throughout the game as a sort of ironic juxtaposition with the setting & circumstances (after the mustard gas, I’m thinking the first minute or so of “I Don’t Want To Get Well”), but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll have to get them remixed.

Funny thing is, I don’t think that the intro really gives the player any idea where the story is actually going. Historical fiction it may be, but the story really has almost nothing to do with actually fighting a war (the player is removed from fighting via injury). I s’pose it’s more about the effects of war and the conditions of the Great War, in particular. Just have to wait to see how it all develops, ça ne fait rien.

Apologies to any who expected to live through a fifth turn or more on the front line.

2nd place: “Dung Beetles Are Aliens!”

Ah, yes. Dung beetles. A Mind Forever Voyaging and 7 Days a Skeptic (not IF, but still adventure-- note the series of weak Yahtzee references on the computer) inspired me to make a game where a few of the puzzles have to be completed through a computer, so I set out to make one, which became MAWINDEX (a suitable mish-mash of Macintosh & Windows, I thought, it also helped determine the game’s time period). At the same time, I was also playing through Earthbound and really loving the crazy battles with angry slugs and ants and things. Somehow it all came together to inspire this mess.

There’s not much there in the intro, but I didn’t know how much else I could offer in three rooms. Still, I felt I had to include it for several reasons, one of which was the sheer age of the thing. The only older project I have still intact is Irvine Quik and the Search for the Fish of Traglea (which I tell myself is the project I'll focus on next, but we'll see). It would be a shame, I thought, if Dung Beetles was never seen by anyone (if you think otherwise, lemme know). Plus, I thought that the general spoofy B-movie weirdness of it made a nice juxtaposition with my other entries, which seem a little more on the serious end.

I felt a little bad about the insect research file being “lost or deleted.” Feels like such a cop-out.

Hopefully players noticed the objects on the table… in particular, the bug translating helmet, specimen carrier, and the gas goggles will all play a big part in the game. Did anyone try putting objects on the gas goggles? Intend to make a running gag of them. Funnily enough, the Zegathean slug is the only ASCII art I have in the game so far, really. That was sort of a last-minute addition. I haven’t thought up what ASCII moths, dung beetles, etc. might look like, although I do have a king elephant in another game that never made it (one of the many).

Has anyone ever actually been to Georgia (anyone visiting my blog, that is… obviously people have been to Georgia)? My favourite adventures have always been ones that create a strong sense of time and place, and I’ve a particular geographic location in mind for Sarkalouga, nestled in the Ridge & Valley section of Appalachia. Flora, fauna, culture… I’ve done some of my own research, but it will never beat first-hand experience. If you know something about northwestern Georgia in the 1980s, lemme know.

Apologies to any who wanted a completeable intro.

1 comment:

  1. I think you should finish No Such Thing first, 'cause it seems like an interesting experimental game, and you said it might be easy enough to finish that you could. Dung Beetles Are Aliens! was fun. (yeah, I would've liked a proper ending to the introduction though, and was surprised not to find it in one of your games, actually) I didn't feel like there was enough of To End All Wars to see how the actual gameplay would really be, though it was nicely set up. Might be not so much to my taste, but I can't really tell for sure yet; it could be. So I think you should finish all three if you're up to it. =)