IFComp 2015: Unbeknown   2 comments

By Alan DeNiro. Finished twice. Played on computer with the Firefox browser.

You start following the brook. Despite not being anywhere near your Poli Sci class, you feel at home. Silver minnows dart in your direction as you walk, as if you are a magnet and they are iron filings.

The brook widens. You don’t see any signs of human habitation, only animal tracks: deer, hare, red bear.

After an hour of walking, nothing looks familiar. The topography, if it’s mimicking the game, is procedurally generated. Meadows, mounds, faery rings of mushrooms beginning to sprout.

The plots of Alan’s games are often puzzleboxes in themselves. I’ve often found myself needing to re-read and take notes get to make sure I understand the setting.

Unbeknown is no exception. The main character is playing what resembles a modern survival game like Day-Z or Rust but things quickly go sideways.

It’s a lovely, short thing, and I do recommend everyone try it.



–it does suffer from a lack of choices. While this isn’t literal, my experience felt like the diagram above.

There are two endings which seem to hinge solely on a final choice. However, neither ending comes across as a “choose which ending you prefer” moment, rather, they give different knowledge and it feels like the puzzlebox is incomplete without both of them existing simultaneously.


I’ve been trying hard to figure out why some minimalist Twine works bother me and some do not. Here is my current theory: if there are choices presented that look like they should affect the main part of the plot, it’s allowed at least the first time to “fake out” and railroad back to the main story, but at some point during the game there should be plot choices that feel like they have genuine influence. This feeling needs to be tangible; completely hidden stats don’t help with this. Just having a choice in one of X endings does not count. Having the only branching be alternate endings leads to what I might call “the home video Clue effect” (named after the movie which originally had 3 endings which showed randomly in different theaters, but the home DVD/VHS/bootleg Youtube clip/whatever has the three endings play one after the other).

I am expecting, given a plot-related choice, to have some role in shaping the story. That doesn’t even necessarily mean different nodes — perhaps passages are inserted in the main branch which acknowledge choices of the reader. When agency is presented as possible but then denied I feel like some sort of social contract has been violated.

Lots of adventure games have purely linear plots, but there is traditionally tons of room for variety at the small-scale level; trying to work out puzzles, examining and moving around at one’s own pace. If that interest is stripped out than what’s left is the ability to shape events at a macro level, but if that is denied there’s not much to work with at all other than clicking on the next word.


Sorry for the sidetrack there. By way of apology to Mr. DeNiro, I’d like to mention I’ve enjoyed all of his work and want to point everyone towards his very first IFComp entry from 2001, The Isolato Incident. It got 22nd place so I reckon many of you haven’t tried it, but it is very much worth a go.

Posted October 6, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “IFComp 2015: Unbeknown

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  1. Pingback: IFComp 2015: Switcheroo | Renga in Blue

  2. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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