IFComp 2007: Ferrous Ring   2 comments

Next on the slate is the post-apocalyptic work Ferrous Ring.

I’m sure there was a time when I was intending to come here, wasn’t there? After Leynard himself told me – there were only two safe places left in the city (which was more than most cities, of course): the university, and this park. Yes I remember it now. But obviously I forgot about the park soon after I started at the university, and soon after that… well, nowhere was safe anymore.

Good: the prose giving a sense of a world falling apart without being overdone; the effective use of first person; the main character’s nervous disposition; the conversation in the library.

Bad: the difficulty in visualization causing confusing puzzles; the supposed choices which turned out to be meaningless; the sketchiness of the world universe.

One of this game’s features is to present options in a CYOA format (you can do this, or that) but have the actions be typed freely, like a normal IF prompt. This didn’t work as well as it could have for two reasons.

a.) Even given prompting, sometimes the syntax wasn’t obvious:

Shall I just watch the video on the camera, or shall I follow my usual routine and transfer the footage to the computer?

>watch video on camera
An idea flashes through my head, then passes.

(You just have to “watch video”. If you transfer to the computer, then “watch video” will assume you mean the computer, but you have to type it twice.)

b.) One popular trick with CYOA is to have a “plot cluster” with a mini-web of choices

CYOA cluster

where it appears there’s some player control over the story, but in the end the plot merges into a single point at the end and keeps going. This is common due to combinatorial explosion; if the player picks up some optional NPC along the way, every subsequent entry must include two variations: with and without the NPC. It’s much more convenient to simply kill off or otherwise remove the NPC after some point X.

I tried the opening dialogue a multitude of ways, including trying to avoid conversation altogether, and I was forced to both enter conversation and provide my name, and have essentially the exact same dialogue each time. There’s a part later where you are supposed to get on a certain train, and the protagonist considers getting on a different train; however, if you get on a different train, you are eventually forced back to where you are supposed to be.

I have no problem with a linear plot — I’ve written them myself. What I do have issue with is setting up for non-linearity but yanking any choices the player takes away.

Posted October 24, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

2 responses to “IFComp 2007: Ferrous Ring

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  1. You make a good point about being it hard to visualize. I didn’t attribute this to the Good/Bad lists, but maybe. There were parts I *could* see fairly well, but for the most part I had the impression that a lot more was going on (and evident in menu mode) than I gleaned just by reading the text.

  2. Pingback: IFComp 2007: In The Mind Of The Master « Renga in Blue

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