Archive for November 2007

New IF dissertation from Jeremy Douglass   1 comment

Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media

The PDF weighs in at 418 pages.

The range of the dissertation includes media other than textual IF; Figure 1 is of Shadow of the Colossus.

Posted November 27, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Worlds Apart: On Waiting   1 comment

I’ve been playing Worlds Apart by Suzanne Britton (I’ll write a full review when I’m done) but I wanted to mention one issue now: there’s a lot of waiting.

The waiting is of three types. The first is in conversation. The conversation is somewhat cutscene-based. There are things your characters will say you have no control over, and this is spread out over multiple turns so that 5 turns later the game will run the next part of the script. However, you can also ASK things about specific topics in-between. This is a reasonable format in short bursts; it keeps the reams of text from getting too ungainly, and provides a moderate illusion of interaction. It also allows time to examine the things in the environment. The problem in Worlds Apart is the wait period is too long; the cutscenes are sometimes spread out over more turns than any topic-asking or world-searching will take, so part of the interaction involves typing Z until the next portion of the conversation comes up.

The second kind of waiting is worse: waiting for puzzles. The first puzzle where this happens isn’t too bad (you’re waiting for a character to finish what they are doing and end up in a certain position) but there are later instances where you can’t solve a puzzle in the first turn and have to wait X number of turns later when an event to trigger. This ought not to bother me so much — it ensures the player has a certain amount of struggle with the problem in question, so the solution gives the sense of overcoming an obstacle — yet I’m starting to get irritated.

The third is holistic: certain things will only show up and one particular obstacle can only be overcome after you’ve made progress in the story. This is perfectly natural — events in a story can have a chronology — but in Worlds Apart the progress from one event to the next seems arbitrary.

Am I being unfair? When is forcing the player to wait a reasonable thing?

Posted November 26, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Where I got stuck in Lost Pig   3 comments

There were three specific points I got stuck playing Lost Pig. They were all essentially my fault, but I thought it might be instructive to mention them.

I give complete spoilers for several puzzles, so don’t read these unless you’ve finished the game.

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Posted November 20, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Which work in progress should I finish?   8 comments

I’ve got two major projects in progress: Madrigals of Love and War, and another secret one.

However, those still need a lot of work I’d like to push to finish something. I have three shorter works in progress hanging around. All of them are of a science fiction flavor. I’d like to have at least an alpha (playable to the end on a walkthrough) version done by the end of the year. Which one should I work on?

(Vote in the comments, and give a reason. I won’t necessarily be going by a plurality here.)

  • #1 Working title of “Theme Park”: Two beings of the deific-power sort are attempting to meddle with the time stream by averting a tragedy. You don’t play the deities, you play the one being meddled with. The opening is a touch misleading and might get changed, but I’ll quote it anyway:

    Ah, a day at the park! The Fourth Open Symposium On Genetics has been more grueling than expected, so you’ve skipped a day to relive your childhood. You storm the gates of MedievalLand right at opening, and make it to the The Loop Ourborus before a line begins to form. A car all to yourself — what bliss!

  • #2 No working title: I suppose this one could be best considered a cross between Little Blue Men, Bad Machine, and The U.S. Men’s Hockey Team Olympic Challenge.

    So, those fellows at R3694 think they’re better than you? Floating eye units get no respect. Look at the retractable arm — look! — see, it can hold things and move things and fix things, how about a station on the Galactic Border where the war is going on? — but no, their wonderfully infallible artificial intelligence is sending you down from “abandoned space station” duty to “completely lifeless mining asteroid” duty. They’re going to refit this place into a zero-g handball court, hm? Perhaps a little mischief before you depart is in order.

  • #3 Working title: Beautiful Things. The main character’s brother just died. It’s time to retrieve the family album from his basement. The prose is a bit less straightforward on this one.

    Pity on your brother. Good chap in soul, but got all gummin in the drink and what can you do. Cops weren’t sure how he fell like he did, ragdoll body on the pavement, but autopsy and testimony tracked down “astronomical” amounts of the sour clear stuff like it was his blood of life.

    Sure, he didn’t like you, but he didn’t like anybody. All the rage. Called his mum (different from yours) a “swine-swilling-hag-bag”.

    Clearing out the house all’s left. There’s a family album in the basement. Step sprightly. What have you but the jamb jars loose and the door skittles shut and you’re all locked in. Should be a key in the toolbox. No worries.

Posted November 18, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

IFComp 2007: Lost Pig   Leave a comment

Well, this review *was* up. I’m not sure what happened to erase it.

Anyhow, last review!

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Posted November 14, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

IFComp 2007: The Immortal   Leave a comment

Review after the jump.

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Posted November 14, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

IFComp 2007: Gathered In Darkness   1 comment

Review after the jump.

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Posted November 12, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction