Spring Thing 2009 - Notes on "A Flustered Duck"

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Michael Neal Tenuis

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May 3, 2009, 1:57:39 PM5/3/09
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--------------------------------------
A Flustered Duck, by Jim Aikin
--------------------------------------

In one line: It's a well-written, somewhat difficult puzzle game set in
a quirky world.

This game's puzzles are quite difficult, and sometimes insufficiently
clued, I think.
At least on three occasions I had to ask/tell a character about
something or someone, and it was not at all clear that the NPC would
give an interesting or meaningful response, because most of the other
topics provoked only the same default reactions. I mean: (ROT-13'd) gur
oreevrf, gur gjvfgrq sberfg, pnebyla phfgneq.

I had to resort to the (thankfully comprehensive) integrated hints
several times.

Quite in the beginning, you have to repeat a certain action several
times to advance the story, even though it is immediately clear to the
player that the action won't be successful. I'll grant that the
description of the result changes when you repeat the action, so there's
a certain hint to do it again, but still.... as a player you know it
won't work, so why try again?

Sometimes I felt a certain unwillingness to engage in behaviour that was
mean and also seemed a bit out of character.
ROT-13: fuhssyvat gur wvtfnj chmmyr. Nyfb, nsgre nyy gur cebuvovgvbaf
nobhg tbvat va gur pryyne naq gur orqebbz, naq ure trareny nggvghqr
gbjneqf gur cynlre punenpgre, V jbhyqa'g ernyyl unir gubhtug gung
gryyvat Tenaal nobhg gur wvtfnj chmmyr jbhyq or jvfr.
"Qvffvcngvat" (znlor xvyyvat) n snagnfgvpny perngher fhpu nf gur
Zbbazvfg znvqra jnf fbzrguvat V qvqa'g ernyyl yvxr gb qb; nyfb, vg
frrzrq hazbgvingrq - glcvpny nqiraghere fglyr (whfg gb trg n ivar).

Other quibbles:

Once, an important object was not mentioned in a room description,
although it was there. Thankfully, I knew it had to be there, so that
was not a big problem, but it irritated me for a moment (ROT-13: gur cvr
va gur xvgpura).

The CamelCase in one NPC's name was unnecessary - maybe there was an
(Infocom) in-joke there that I didn't get, but the CamelCase made it
look like the way marketing or advertising people write.

Being able to ride was cool, but all the mounting, dismounting and so on
got fairly repetitive after a while, especially while wandering around
the whole map trying to get an inspiration what to do next.


But don't be misled by the criticism above (I hope it is useful for the
author):
The whole thing is solidly implemented, well-written and funny. You'll
meet a colourful array of characters, and there are several hours of
puzzley fun to be had here.


I rank it first among the four Spring Thing 2009 games (most content,
many puzzles, good writing).


Regards,
Michael

Jim Aikin

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May 5, 2009, 2:59:45 AM5/5/09
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Thanks for the comments, Michael. Believe it or not, I don't have any
software handy that will ROT-13. Do you suppose you could email me your
notes (midiguru23 at-sign sbcglobal dot net) without the cryptic encoding?

I'm about to release the post-Thing version, and if nothing else I'd
like to know what important object I forgot to mention in a room
description.

--JA

Emily Boegheim

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May 5, 2009, 6:37:14 AM5/5/09
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Jim Aikin wrote:
> Believe it or not, I don't have any
> software handy that will ROT-13.

I just use http://www.rot13.com/.

Emily

Rob Sharp

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May 5, 2009, 7:55:11 AM5/5/09
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Shouldn't that be uggc://jjj.ebg13.pbz/ ?

Rob

Michael Neal Tenuis

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May 5, 2009, 8:00:36 AM5/5/09
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Jim Aikin schrieb:

Thank you for the game, and congrats for winning Spring Thing!

In addition to Emily's suggestion, I'll mention
netzreport.googlepages.com/online_converter_for_rot_5_13_18_47.html

This one is pure Javascript, so you can save it as a web page on your
hard disk and use it offline. Might be useful if you are on dialup or
use several computers to have a safe offline machine.

I also emailed you with further details on what I meant.

Regards,
Michael

Jerome West

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May 5, 2009, 1:41:35 PM5/5/09
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Jim Aikin wrote:
> Thanks for the comments, Michael. Believe it or not, I don't have any
> software handy that will ROT-13. Do you suppose you could email me your
> notes (midiguru23 at-sign sbcglobal dot net) without the cryptic encoding?

Alternatively, since you appear to be posting from Thunderbird, you
could install the Add-on "LeetKey" from here: -

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/770

Despite the name, it does rather a good job with ROT13 (amongst other
things) and integrates nicely with Thunderbird - just select the text
and right-click, LeetKey -> Text Transformers -> ROT13.

Vs lbh unq vg vafgnyyrq, lbh'q or ernqvat guvf abj... naq jbhyqa'g gung
or rkpvgvat! :)

Ross Presser

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May 6, 2009, 1:34:20 PM5/6/09
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On May 5, 1:41 pm, Jerome West <jeromecw...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Alternatively, since you appear to be posting from Thunderbird, you
> could install the Add-on "LeetKey" from here: -
>
> https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/770
>
> Despite the name, it does rather a good job with ROT13 (amongst other
> things) and integrates nicely with Thunderbird - just select the text
> and right-click, LeetKey -> Text Transformers -> ROT13.
>
> Vs lbh unq vg vafgnyyrq, lbh'q or ernqvat guvf abj... naq jbhyqa'g gung
> or rkpvgvat!  :)

Works with Firefox too, which may be relevant for Google Groups users
(like me). And you can set a hotkey for transformation, letting you
select some text and click ctrl-alt-L (in my case).

Jim Aikin

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May 7, 2009, 11:58:51 AM5/7/09
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I tried installing LeetKey -- couldn't figure out how to make it work,
so I uninstalled it.

--JA

Jerome West

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May 7, 2009, 5:03:59 PM5/7/09
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Jim Aikin wrote:
> I tried installing LeetKey -- couldn't figure out how to make it work,
> so I uninstalled it.

That's odd - it took me a minute or two to find the right option for
ROT13 (described in my original message), but other than that it was all
plain sailing for me. It sounds like you've given up on it, but if you
do want a hand feel free to drop me a line.

peter...@hotmail.com

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May 8, 2009, 2:43:58 AM5/8/09
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Jim, is your "post-Thing" version going to be a bit fairer on
prompting the player's actions? Who to ask about the berries, how to
get rid of the ghost maiden, the rosebush-way of solving a certain
puzzle (I had no idea I could do that to the rosebush, so I must have
imagined it differently than you did. Also, I had no idea anyone would
be attracted to the rosebush).

I'm trying really hard not to give spoilers here. :)

And also the things about navigation when riding that certain
navigational instrument, so that it becomes... well, less of a
nuisance, less of a bother?

I say this because these issues, especially the under-prompting, left
me going "How the heck was I supposed to figure that out?" when I
consulted the hints. But I persevered, because I really liked the
game. Still, I didn't finish it - I didn't persevere that much. I
*want* to finish it, though... but I won't be able to, unless the PC's
actions are better prompted.

Jim Aikin

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May 8, 2009, 11:53:17 AM5/8/09
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Good questions, Peter. As soon as I get the I7 Handbook to the next
stage (which should happen this weekend) I'm going to tackle the edits
for the game.

peter...@hotmail.com wrote:
> Jim, is your "post-Thing" version going to be a bit fairer on
> prompting the player's actions? Who to ask about the berries, how to
> get rid of the ghost maiden, the rosebush-way of solving a certain
> puzzle (I had no idea I could do that to the rosebush, so I must have
> imagined it differently than you did. Also, I had no idea anyone would
> be attracted to the rosebush).

Heh. Well, the business with the rosebush will happen automatically if
you use it for something else, in preference to another object that's
located nearby. The idea that the rosebush would prove attractive in
that particular way is probably no more far-fetched than a dozen other
things in the game.

I agree that it would be nice if the player got a nudge about the
berries. I'll see what I can do about that. The maiden ... well, maybe a
subtle in-game hint could be added there as well.

> I'm trying really hard not to give spoilers here. :)
>
> And also the things about navigation when riding that certain
> navigational instrument, so that it becomes... well, less of a
> nuisance, less of a bother?

The navigation thing is part of the puzzle, though, isn't it? Once you
understand what you have to do, you only have to type a maximum of about
six letters to go where you want to go.

THanks for the comments, though. I'll take a close look at this issue
throughout the game. Admittedly, many of the actions required to finish
the game are quite strange. That's part of the premise of the game, I
suppose. If you haven't gotten down into the lower level of the windmill
yet, you'll find something there that's even more difficult for the
player to deal with than the navigation puzzle. But by intention. (And
no, it's not a maze.)

--JA

Reiko

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May 8, 2009, 1:29:00 PM5/8/09
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On May 8, 10:53 am, Jim Aikin <midigur...@gmail.com> wrote:
> The navigation thing is part of the puzzle, though, isn't it? Once you
> understand what you have to do, you only have to type a maximum of about
> six letters to go where you want to go.

(trying to avoid spoilers as well)
Are you talking about the thing to get around the bridge (over the
gorge)? I always found it quite annoying to work with because it had
to be turned around every time, which took about four commands, before
I could even go anywhere. That's way more than six letters, unless
there's a one-letter abbreviation for that command that wasn't
apparent (I don't know if I tried the most likely possibility or not).

~Reiko

peter...@hotmail.com

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May 8, 2009, 6:09:11 PM5/8/09
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> > The navigation thing is part of the puzzle, though, isn't it? Once you
> > understand what you have to do, you only have to type a maximum of about
> > six letters to go where you want to go.

Yeah, but what you didn't foresee was me wanting to ride that thing
everywhere instead of Bessie. :) Heh. Once the puzzle's figured out,
maybe just compass directions? Make it easier to go once the actual
puzzle (a good one - I just got severely hung up on the terminology,
having actually come amazingly close to it before having to resort to
the hints) has been solved.

Or don't you want the player to use that transport all that much? If
you don't, then that's the way to go. :)

peter...@hotmail.com

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May 8, 2009, 6:11:29 PM5/8/09
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Incidently, re the maiden thing - it was pretty obvious to me WHAT to
use, it was the verb that had eluded me.
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