IFComp 2015: Gotomomi   4 comments

By Arno von Borries. Not finished.

Gatan-gatan made the subway train every time it passed over a rail joint as it raced through the tunnel towards freedom. Squashed between commuters in the suffocating heat of the mid-summer night, I was already totally drenched in sweat – theirs and mine. I had opportunely lost my mobile phone half an hour ago in a trash can at Shinjuku station, so my father’s men wouldn’t have quite such an easy time tracking me. Gotomomi was the next stop and all I needed now to make my get-away was a change of trains and clothing.

You’re running away from home and need to scrounge enough money to buy a train ticket.

While in theory I loved the concept and the Japanese setting, in practice the prose felt too purely-functional to convey any of the vastness of the situation.

The square in front of Gotomomi central station doubled as the city’s primary waterfront. In the south a railway bridge spanned the width of a canal that discharged its revolting contents into the bay at this point and in the north the Odakyû line extended towards a wall of sky-high buildings, the street beside it bustling with activity. The main entrance to the station was to the east, and the sheer amount of traffic going in and out of it every second was staggering. To the west stretched the black waters of the sea, intermittently coloured by the position lights of ships far out in the bay.

The strikes me more like a checklist than a room description. (Note how the possible directions are given in boldface, which is generally helpful, except for a problem spot I’ll mention shortly.)

The very first move of the game involves your wallet getting stolen. (There’s no particular description of this; I first thought maybe the status line was broken when the money dropped to 0.) It’s possible to save your ID by just taking it out of the wallet first thing (a maneuver that seems to only be possible with prior knowledge) but it won’t let you take out any money you are forced to start the game at 0 yen.

So with no money the goal seems to be to find a job. The first job I tried to do just ended up with a lot of getting yelled at for no apparent reason.

I could also see a black and a red bucket there.

A fish from the red bucket was squeezed into a tin can.
“Why are you so slow in hauling these buckets? The gutters have nowhere to put the fish! Get a move on, you sloppy snail!” The foreman was fuming.

> drop green bucket

A Rattail from the green bucket found its way into a tin can.
“It can’t be so difficult to get the buckets in and out in time! The gutters have nowhere to put the fish! Move it before I spank your lazy bum!” The foreman was fuming.

> get black bucket
I picked up the black bucket from the ground.

A fish from the green bucket was packed into a tin can.
“Why are you so slow in hauling these buckets? The gutters have nowhere to put the fish! Get a move on, you sloppy snail!” The foreman was fuming.

After about 15 minutes of fruitlessness I restarted the game and checked the walkthrough.

The walkthrough doesn’t even mention the fish-bucket job, it goes straight for a courier job. Fine, let’s try that.

“I’m Kei, yoroshiku. Would you be willing to work for me just for tonight, by any chance?”

[1] “I’m not really interested in working for you.”
[2] “I could do the deliveries for you.”

> 2
“You would? That’s awesome. The night shift gets 32000 yen by the way, they’d be yours as well. To tell you right away though: you’re useless in that get-up. Find something more practical to wear first.”

Clothes seemed like a reasonable quest, but I wandered all over the map multiple times and the only ones I could find in a mall that required money. (Note that the only reason I could enter the mall was the opening-move rescue of the ID; I very much hope it’s still possible to win without doing that.)

Finally I consulted the walkthrough again and found out about a location I missed.

Beside the railway viaduct.
Here, the Odakyû railway viaduct was seemingly swallowed by a huge gaping mouth in one of the skyscrapers. Far below it, a steady stream of battered poor-folk ensured good business for the shabby shops under the railway line. To the west was the entrance to “Martyrium”. To the south was the station. A small passage vanished between the buildings to the north.

You would be forgiven for thinking the only directions you can go are north, south, and west.

> x shops
Dozens of small cardboard shacks that housed the homeless were cramped in with the shops between the pillars of the viaduct. Among them was a particularly decrepit one – advertising for itself with a flickering neon sign that said “Tanaka used goods”.

Yes, it turns out you can go IN to a place that can only be found by checking a small part of a description that in other contexts indicates there’s nothing important.

Okay, let’s keep going. I went in the shop, sold my stuff (horray money!) and found out that the clothes store I saw earlier apparently has nothing worth buying. I guess I need a different clothing store.

Wander wander wander. No luck, guess it’s time for the walkthrough again. Apparently to get to clothes I need to … rent a boat? Okay. Attempted rental:

> 1
“The boat is 950 yen per day. But you’ll have to leave a deposit for the keys as well.”

[1] “What will you accept as a deposit?”
[2] “I’m not interested in renting the boat after all.”

> 1
The sea-bear puffed some smoke from his pipe.

“I don’t think you have anything on you I would accept, I’m sorry”

Wait, I’m doing what the walkthrough says! Going back to check, it looks like I sold too much at the used goods store, I needed to sell only one item.

Yes, I made the game unwinnable. Time for a restart!

After a bit of turn-repeating, I managed to get a boat on the water and find a floating market. A-ha! Get off the boat, check the walkthrough because I’m nervous now, and it says I need to negotiate to buy stuff. Here’s how negotiation goes:

“I want 2730 yen for it.”

[1] “I’m not interested in the working boots.”
[2] “1990 yen seems like a fairer price.”
[3] “OK, here you go: 2730 yen for the working boots.”

> 2
The Woman inspected an article of clothing.

“I want 2350 yen for it.”

[1] “I’m not interested in the working boots.”
[2] “2240 yen seems like a fairer price.”
[3] “OK, here you go: 2350 yen for the working boots.”

> 2
The Woman inspected an article of clothing.

“This way we won’t get anywhere. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

After buying one article of clothing (a boiler suit), I eventually get into an endless loop with the working boots — I tried haggling roughly 10 times — and can’t get them. Probably I spent too much money on the boiler suit.

Time to restore? … no, unfortunately, I lost my patience at this point.

This is a concept I really wanted to work — I love the idea of an open world situation where you’re just trying to scrounge up cash. Having a dynamic cash variable separates puzzles from a lock-key dynamic in a pretty big way. Unfortunately, I ran too quickly into loops or unwinnable situations and the characters and story just weren’t compelling enough for me to try to push through it.

Posted November 14, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “IFComp 2015: Gotomomi

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  1. FYI, you don’t have to restart after selling too much of your stuff, you can buy them back (though usually at a loss). But yeah, the game is stingy about money, so I didn’t manage to finish after going through the walkthrough either. There were a few other ways to earn money that I hadn’t done, but I was out of time. I hope to come back and finish after the comp, but I’m not as eager as I am to finish some of the other too-long games.

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