Archive for December 2015

Adventure II: The Walkthrough Method   Leave a comment

adv2mapclip

While I’ve played many, many adventure games throughout my life, I usually have relied on hintbooks, walkthroughs, or the like to take them to completion. The most difficult adventure game of significant length I’ve ever beaten without hints is Peter Killworth’s Countdown to Doom (from 1982). I am still not sure if it was simply strong puzzle design (it does have some) or some other strange magic that led me to finish hint-free, but one of the things I did that was unusual for me is write a walkthrough while still mid-game. This was out of necessity; the entire game is on a timer and normal exploratory play would not be sufficient to win.

The act of doing so led me to think about every step; what could be optimized, what I might be missing.

If nothing else, on a game like Adventure II where I know how to do a lot (the original Adventure content) but none of the new stuff, making a walkthrough gives me something to do. (The optimizing might be necessary too — I don’t know how many turns I have before lamp power runs out.)

My current walkthrough progress

This is a walkthrough for personal tactical purposes. It’d be terrible for someone trying to understand what’s going on. For instance, I grab items from rooms without light on because I know what’s in there and I don’t need to waste a turn with the lamp on.

I’m using the building extensively as a “home base” not just because the treasures are supposed to go there, but also because the dwarves can swipe the non-treasure items so I only want to be holding what I’m actually using at the time.

Hopefully I’ll solve one of the new puzzles soon? If all else fails I can dive into the source code.

Posted December 12, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure II: Tidy Dwarves   1 comment

(It has been a while, so you might want to refresh yourself with my previous two posts on Adventure II.)

adventurecovers

(Three different commercial release covers. Notice how two of them feature a sword, but there is no sword in the game. Pictures via Pintrest, Ye Olde Infocom Shoppe, and Maximum PC.)

I originally planned to write this post focusing on the content from the original Adventure — which remains intact in Adventure II — but the extra features (including the thirst timer I mentioned in my last post) make the gameplay feel rather different.

What I found most startling is when I found a dwarf carrying an item:

THERE IS A THREATENING LITTLE DWARF IN THE ROOM WITH YOU!

HE SCUTTLES ALONG CLUTCHING HIS BULGING COAT FRONT AND MUTTERING.

Rather like the thief in Zork, the dwarves can now pick up stuff. However, they don’t seem to be necessarily going for treasure and I wasn’t sure what was going on until I came across this old post

Adv440 is unique in that it makes dwarves cumpulsively tidy minded. If in their wanderings around the cave they come across a misplaced object (i.e. an object not in its initial location), they’ll pick it up and carry it around with them, until they happen to walk into the initial location of the object, in which case they drop it there.

The mere presence of a chaotic system on top of exact same content led to changes in my behavior (and by extension, the implicit narrative that is built as I play). I am being much more careful about touching utility items (since if I have to drop them to carry treasures there is a good chance they will disappear) while simultaneously keeping my eye on my water supply and judging my route based on the availability of water at the right time.

Chaotic systems like dwarves that move items are pretty rare in modern IF games, but they add a strategic layer to what would normally be raw puzzle solving (in this case, some puzzles I already know how to solve). It does go a fair way in making the environment feel like it is generating a story, rather than simply providing a mute catalog of obstacles. Maybe it’s a tradition worth a new look.

Posted December 8, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Tips on writing imaginary game reviews   2 comments

Entries for the imaginary games from imaginary universes jam are rolling in, but I’d like take a moment to give some general advice. This is the sort of advice that can be gleeful ignored, mind, but if you’re having trouble, this might help.

  • Invoking your improbable and maybe impossible dream game is one route. You can even use that idea to get started but take a single chunk of it and run in another direction.
  • Read one of the myriad definitions of a game. Then try your hardest to write about a game that breaks that definition.
  • Read some of the more fanciful theorists like Peter Molyneux or his doppelganger Peter Molydeux. Take one of their weird ideas and expand it.
  • Take some technology from science fiction (or one that exists but just isn’t common) and imagine how you could use it as the peripheral for a game.
  • Take some obscure game that hasn’t been developed on by other authors and imagine that it spawns a whole genre (the “dragonpasser” genre mentioned here is a good example — King of Dragon Pass is a unique game which hasn’t really had any imitators — but what if it had?).

Here’s one of my own imaginary games, analyzed with respect to the concepts above.

Dragon Hall (22925)
I have never been a fan of the no-genre movement (that is, labeling games by story genre rather than gameplay genre) simply because it seems like everything I’ve tried has been a weak action-adventure made weaker by the lack of commitment.

In any case “just like the holodeck on Star Trek!” never seems to have happened.

The developers at Tale of Tales once wrote an essay wishful that we couldn’t have interactive story with the same flexibility as the Star Trek holodeck. This never turned into a movement, even by them, but I always wondered what it’d be like if it had.

Dragon Hall … well, didn’t change my mind, but for two hours or so, wow. First off, it’s a third-person corporate thriller (already being different there)

I was thinking here of the old Magnetic Scrolls game Corruption, which as far as I know is the only (actual) game ever written in the corporate thriller genre.

where the interaction you’d think is primarily social, but really there’s so many options at any moment it feels like … ok, obviously I’m having trouble here. Look, in an adventure game, I feel like I’m constantly looking for locks to fit keys; in a strategy game, I’m always optimizing; in an action game, I’m priming my reflexes. Here, all I was thinking what would my character do? and somehow I could do every option I thought of, and for a while I was inhabiting a world rather than playing a game.

Here we’re entering “my dream game” territory — what if there was just story, and you had complete flexibility to do whatever occurred to you? (Again similar to the holodeck idea.)

Then the sheen wore off and I was finding the optimum thing to say to the Twile Sisters so they would turn against the Syndicate and give me the password. But it was great while it lasted.

But since this is a review, I imagined cynically this is what would actually happen if anyone tried to sustain such a game at length.

I hadn’t heard of this until after my original game jam post, but these three imaginary game reviews by Alexis Kennedy are terrific.

Remember, deadline for phase 1 is December 13th. I look forward to see what you come up with!

Posted December 1, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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