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

One response to “Worlds Apart: On Waiting

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  1. Worlds Apart was one of the first IF games I played, so my memory is hazy, but the thing that sticks out in my mind was how long it felt. So I don’t think you’re off the mark. It was one of the things I loved about the game in the end.

    I think this is all tied into the challenges inherent in making a story interactive. Pacing is going to be a huge issue. Take the case where the game makes you do all the steps of a puzzle just to get to the ending; in my mind there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t skip to the last step if the world is in a state such that it would make logical sense.

    In the general sense I think forcing the player to wait is rarely a good thing. Practically speaking the player could be doing all sorts of other things (examining, talking) instead of waiting — this is what you mention above, and it sounds like in Worlds Apart it just needed more polishing to tighten up the timing. Giving the cut-scene fewer turns is a start. Better to err on the side of coming in early than late, don’t you think?

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