Last Resort design comments (not exactly a review)

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Emily Short

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Dec 26, 2006, 8:03:03 PM12/26/06
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The website for Jim Aikin's "Last Resort"
(http://www.musicwords.net/if/if_resort.htm) advises the player as
follows:

"Last Resort" is an attempt to use the medium of interactive fiction
for a serious story with an actual plot. Since plot is by definition
linear, while interactive fiction is by definition non-linear, this
presented certain challenges. I'll leave it for others to say whether
the attempt was successful.

To which I have to say: no, I don't think it was.

The game has a lot going for it: an effective plot hook, large and
ambitious design, careful testing, thoughtful packaging. It took me
several days to play, and once I'd gotten a couple of hours in I was
determined to finish. Overall, I enjoyed playing it, and it's obvious
that a number of other people here did as well.

All the same, I thought the puzzle design had major flaws both on the
large scale (how puzzles relate to one another and to the plot) and the
small (how individual puzzles function). It creates frustration where
none is needed. It makes the player restore frequently and turns the
game unwinnable without warning. It offers inadequate rewards for
success. It bores, confuses, and irritates in turn. And -- perhaps most
relevantly in the light of the website comments -- it does an execrable
job of pacing the plot. What follows is a discussion of how I think it
goes wrong.

A couple of remarks first, though:

1) this is not a review of Last Resort; it's a discussion of a
particular aspect of the game that I thought didn't work, so it will
probably give a more negative impression overall than is really fair.

2) because this is a design analysis, it's mostly spoilers. If you plan
to play the game but haven't done so yet, please stop here.

3) I've run this feedback past Jim already, and he has indicated that
he may address many of these issues in a substantially revised new
version. Everything I say here applies only to release 1 of the game.

4) Jim had some responses to my comments, and I've included them here.
They're the bits prefaced by JA: ...

=====

On the small scale, we have some standard problems: guess-the-verb
scenarios (would you have guessed PUT HOOK IN POCKET as a way to fish a
key from someone's pocket while standing some distance away?); puzzles
where only one of two similar objects will work; physical puzzles that
are underdescribed; puzzles that involve meticulously searching some
scenery while other scenery in the same room (or other scenery of the
same kind in another room) assures you that it isn't interesting. Very
few of the puzzles provide much intermediate feedback on the way to
being solved. On the contrary, most require the player to get and use
the right object, and this tends to depend on having the right insight
or searching the right scenery. This means that they tend to be either
extremely easy (because you have the right object and can immediately
see how to apply it) or impossible (because you haven't ever seen the
right object, or because you're on the wrong track but get no useful
hints out of trying the wrong thing, or because the puzzle requires
mind-reading). I can think of no case where I was able to reason my way
from adequate hints to a non-trivial yet satisfying solution.

[JA: The sources of some of these criticisms are clear to me; others
less so. I guess you didn't try FISH FOR KEY or LOWER HOOK INTO POCKET.
The question of which scenery to make searchable is a difficult one,
and I'm not sure there's a right answer. If you make everything
searchable, then the player has to search everything, even though 95%
of the searches will be fruitless. To me, a variant of "No, that's not
very interesting" is being courteous to the player. I'm not sure what
would constitute an adequate in-game hint -- I'd love to read some
examples. I might mention that there are numerous in-game hints in Last
Resort that will come from the NPCs if you mention the right topics to
them.]

The NPCs are like this as well; one has to stumble on the right
keywords to trigger the desired outcome, but the player has no reason
to know that he's even trying to accomplish this. Getting rid of Honey
Hartwell was a typical example. I knew I needed to get inside her
purse; I tried telling her various things in an attempt to budge her
from her chair; I tried showing her things; I tried talking to other
NPCs about her in the hope that one of them would intervene. None of
this worked. I had given up on the puzzle and was aimlessly questioning
her when I happened to hit on a keyword that sent her away.

[JA: There are two keywords that will work. One of them (the wasps) is
available at all times, the other (the CD) becomes available during the
course of the game. If you mention the wasps to Tyrone, he'll give you
a hint that it will work. And the CD is a topic she herself mentions
earlier. So it's not entirely blind guesswork.]

Because most of the puzzles require bursts of insight or luck rather
than gradual solution, the player spends most of his time stuck and
little actively making progress. The beginning of the game is better
than the rest in this regard, since there's a lot to explore. But later
progress does not open up many more rooms -- there are a few, but
exploration never becomes a major part of the interaction again after
the initial survey of the map. And the puzzle mechanisms are not mostly
responsive to being played with.

[JA: Again, I'd love to read a couple of examples of the type of
responsiveness you'd like to see.

ES: In the case of the NPCs, it might help if the conversations were
more fluid and the player were led a bit more towards topics that
produce useful results. With mechanical objects like the wall carvings,
it would help to have something happen when the player has a partial
solution.]

Moreover, there are lots of puzzles which we have to solve without
knowing why we're solving them. Here is my experience of the puzzle
involving the cup of cocoa and the fishing pole: I found the sleeping
pill, the cocoa, the kettle, and the mug. The pill had obvious
potential; it was less clear why I wanted the other things, but THINK
told me I should get the stove to work again. Eventually it did occur
to me to make some cocoa and give it to Phelps with the sleeping pill,
but for the wrong reasons. I was hoping to knock him out so that he'd
stop interfering with me exploring his bedroom. This didn't work.
(Apparently even the drugged, sleeping Phelps can find out about your
incursions.) I was a bit bewildered at this point, but the description
implied that I should use the flower bed to spy on Phelps, so I did so
on spec. From there I saw that his pocket was open, and though X
POCKET and SEARCH POCKET gave counter-intuitive answers, I figured he
must have a key anyway. So I tried the hook on him, and after the
aforementioned guess-the-verb trouble, managed to catch the key and get
it away.

At no point in this sequence was I sensibly motivated either in or out
of character. My PC had no good reason to undertake some of these
actions -- why mess with the fusebox when she barely knows what it is
and has no reason to want to make cocoa anyway? And I, as
text-adventurer, have no good reason for it either, other than that the
THINK command tells me I should do something with the stove. I haven't
seen any evidence that making cocoa will help me with Phelps or that
Phelps has something I want to get from his pocket. There may have been
clues in the game somewhere, but I never saw them. Failing such hints,
a lot of what I did was meta-gaming. The implementation that gave away
what I was supposed to do: the way the parser worked, the way actions
were handled, things that turned out to be in scope in a given place,
entries in the THINK list. But this is not satisfying or reliable.
There are enough alternate solutions and red herrings to make such
meta-gaming difficult. One might think to make cocoa just because cocoa
is implemented in the game; but the game also contains a breakable egg,
a candle, a Bible, a floorboard, tongs, an antique doll, and assorted
other items I never needed.

[JA: The egg, the tongs, the floorboard, the candle, and the doll are
all useful as alternate solutions to various puzzles. If I had left
them out, the game would have been more difficult. I'm not sure that's
a desirable outcome.]

Once we've managed to discern a goal and carry it out, we find that
many of the puzzles offer no reward for solving. The boat shed requires
the player to solve, at my count, five separate puzzles to gain access.
Solving the first three, concerning the dog, is a largely annoying
experience. There's no progress; there's not even the entertainment of
seeing an interesting cut scene or learning some bit of plot
information. The author may have had in mind something like the
Babelfish dispenser in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where the
player keeps thinking he's about to win and being comically thwarted;
but getting into the boatshed doesn't play that way in practice, for
several reasons. For one thing, the pacing is wrong. The player has to
solve one puzzle (for instance, giving the possum to the dog), then go
away, do more work, come back, solve the next. For another, the
failures aren't funny. When we try and fail to get the Babelfish, each
new blockage is more absurd than the last. In the case of the boatshed,
the new blockages aren't themselves interesting. We're not rewarded by
getting to see something amusing. We're just *still* *stuck*.

[JA: I've never played Hitchhiker's Guide. Humor would have been out of
place in this story, I think. (There's a bit of it here and there, but
not very much.) I'm not sure what plot information could plausibly have
been added by the action of getting the leash off of the pole -- okay,
the dog could have run around in circles for a minute, but that's not
plot. Perhaps it was a bad or unnecessary puzzle, but I'm not sure the
absence of new plot information is something I could easily remedy
here.]

Often when a game has a number of puzzles that aren't very interesting
or very well-constructed in themselves, one finds that they're there
primarily as plot-control devices, restricting access to critical areas
or making sure that information is doled out in the correct
proportions. But "Last Resort" doesn't use them this way. Very little
of the map is hidden by puzzles; after the initial exploration, there's
not terribly much to discover. There's a fair amount to *do*, but it's
largely a contrived, play-by-numbers task, finding a matched set of
MacGuffins and treating them appropriately. I'd gotten the gist of the
plot within the first couple of hours of play, after which there were
no major developments; there wasn't even much new backstory to
discover, beyond a bit of enlightenment about the ghost in the meadow.
And this revelation was comparatively predictable, considering what I
know about my own probable fate.

[JA: To me, Last Resort has about the same dimensions as a short story.
It's not a novel or even a novella, so I don't feel it's quite
appropriate to expect that there will be major plot developments that
will unfold after more than two hours of play. But perhaps I'm being
naive or shortsighted.]

It's not as though there was nowhere else for the plot to go. There
were several things that I would have been interested to know about and
which could have provided additional scenes. There's the figurine dust,
which piles up in an ominous way. There's the doll in the abandoned
nursery: it appeared suspicious, and I expected it to turn out to play
a role somehow. In fact, we never find out whose nursery this was; it's
an odd room to have in a house that seems only barely to have been
inhabited for the last few decades, and certainly Phelps himself
doesn't have a family that we hear about. So what's this all about? The
doll isn't a red herring in the puzzle sense -- those are forgivable --
but a plot red herring. Likewise, Luisa: there are vague hints about
where she came from and why, but we never find out much more. A scene
with her, or about her past, might have added structure to the midgame
and shed more light on the history of this bizarre place. Then there's
Tyrone's mask: what is *his* "congregation", then? Are we to assume
that just about everyone belongs to some demon or other, really?
David's dialogue about Christianity and the marked passages in the
Gideon Bible do suggest as much. This strand of thought is never
followed up in any interesting way, though, and the winning ending
implies that everything is Just Fine Now.

[JA: I have to say, I felt that providing a happy ending was a Good
Thing. If it bothers you, I would suspect that your dissatisfaction
took root at an earlier point in the game. I completely agree that more
could have been done with many of the elements of this story -- at the
cost of making it rather elaborate (even baroque) without increasing
its actual complexity or puzzle depth.]

Perhaps the biggest wasted opportunity in the game was the Aztec area
through the stone slab. Here we have a space that could reveal much
about the history of Phelps' relationship with the demon, about its
function in Aztec society, about the transition from its pre-Columbian
manifestation to its modern one. What did the original worshippers
believe? Why? Who had access to the wish-granting? Were the figurines
used back then, or were the sacrifices in service of civic goals rather
than private ones? Were the victims willing or unwilling? Were they all
female? Where did these demons come from? Some of these things might be
unknown and unknowable, but a few additional answers would have
deepened the game world and increased the sense that its dangers were
real.

[JA: I'm very, very happy to learn that I've stimulated your
imagination to this extent.]

The sequence also offers a break from the dismal setting outside. "Last
Resort" takes some advantage of this: the little bit of outside scenery
we get is attractive, and the spider monkey is charming. The animal
NPCs are one of the game's greatest strengths: they're implemented in
depth, can be petted and played with, have lively mannerisms. They're
more sympathetic to the PC than most of the humans in the game, too,
which adds to their appeal. Of these NPCs, the spider monkey is pretty
clearly the most fun; I loved the face he made when shown the golden
fruit. On the whole, though, this area is disappointing. The puzzle
room with the sand and scorpions could have been pulled directly from
an Indiana Jones movie; the Room of Bones was much less effective than
it could have been. Let's see:

> n

The Room of Bones
This appalling chamber is lit by gray daylight filtering down from a
skylight far above. The floor is heaped with piles of bones - human
bones. Skulls leer at you, and pelvises and shattered rib cages are
everywhere. The doorway through which you entered is to the south.

> x skulls
There must be hundreds of skeletons here, lying in a dreadful and
pathetic jumble. The bones are old and dry, every scrap of flesh long
since gnawed away by vermin. The thought that all these were once
living, breathing people fills you with almost unbearable sadness.

We're told to be appalled and saddened, but the descriptions themselves
lack the freshness to command any such emotion. The leering skulls and
gnawing vermin are stock elements of this kind of scenario. And if we
try to look around here:

> search bones
You don't have the heart to poke around among the skeletons.
Plainly, there's nothing here that would be worth keeping as a
souvenir.

Well, no, perhaps not. But I would have found this whole passage much
more effective as horror, and a much more interesting plot development,
if there *had* been souvenirs -- that is, if there were any indication
of the lives these people had led before their demise, any sign of
individuals whom I should mourn more than I would mourn at a generic
graveyard. As it is, this feels like a Hollywood set that I'm not
allowed to touch, when the situation deserves something oppressive and
vivid, alien and beautiful, engaging all my senses and surprising me
with details that I would not have anticipated.

[JA: See above comment about how your imagination was stimulated. That
said, you're right that more could have been done with this room -- but
it would still have been purely decorative, in terms of the actual
progress of the game.]

To exit this area, we're faced with the problem of the carvings. This
is unquestionably the worst puzzle in the game. There's nothing to tell
us what we're trying to accomplish. (Open the slab, yes; but what state
must we get the carving into first?) Instead of giving interesting
feedback as we work toward a clear goal, the carvings offer no goal and
minimal feedback, and they become no more interesting as we play with
them. Unlike the other set of carvings in the game, they bear no
important relation to the sketchbook, either. This wouldn't be too
great a concern under other circumstances, but here it becomes a major
red herring, because a stuck player has no other input on what makes
this puzzle work. What's more, even when the puzzle is solved, we never
discover why this carving is here or how the mechanism of it works. I
did end up understanding the principle well enough that I would be able
to describe the solution to someone else, but as far as I can tell it's
an arbitrary principle and one that offers no intellectual
satisfaction.

[JA: I agree. Very bad puzzle. If you choose, you can be grateful that
I didn't put a maze there. I considered it.]

So it's not a fun puzzle and it's not a puzzle that sheds light on the
plot or the setting or characters; it also happens to be superfluous
from a design perspective. Being completely self-contained, the
carvings business doesn't keep the player from leaving without the
ruby. Because it leads back to the main game, it doesn't seal off
anything we haven't already seen. It doesn't contribute anything but
length and frustration to the whole process. When I was fighting with
this part of the game, I had several different save threads that I was
working on at once: one in which I went into the Aztec area and tried
to resolve things there, and another in which I was working on opening
the valise and getting into the boat shed. It wasn't evident which of
these I needed to solve before the other, so I couldn't devote all my
attention to just one of those threads. But the carvings puzzle
prevented me from playing through the ruby section and moving on to the
rest.

So here's what I mean about lost opportunity: we have a region which
the player is guaranteed not to reach until he already has a pretty
good sense of what is going on and which would therefore be an
excellent place to put midgame plot twists. What's more, it's a place
where we could plausibly expect to find out more about a major
character, about the nature of the world we're exploring, and about the
danger we face. Instead, we get a segment that does not significantly
advance the plot and in which we can get tediously, needlessly stuck,
and which is not much fun once we've exhausted the spider monkey's
behavioral repertoire.

This is all symptomatic of a failure to design plot and puzzles
together. "Last Resort" disappoints, from a plot perspective, partly
because there simply isn't *enough* story -- not enough development,
not enough use made of the places where more narrative would be welcome
after a tough challenge -- and partly because what's there is not
structured to best advantage. It's not just that there are puzzles
where no puzzles should be; it's also that "Last Resort" misses them
from the places where they *would* be useful. It's possible for the
player to stroll into Hank's cabin very early in the game -- within the
first dozen or so moves -- and observe the murder there. It would be
much more effective if this didn't happen until the player has already
had a little bit of time to be more subtly disturbed by things; but
here, where a puzzle-as-pacing-mechanism would help, none exists.

[JA: I considered adding such an element, but got lazy. (That's what
the doll was intended for, actually.) I think you're absolutely right.]

The timing puzzles cause trouble of a different kind. It's gratuitously
easy to make "Last Resort" unwinnable. There are several separate
timers at work during the game, and failure to do the right things
within the right window will cost you the solution. Moreover, the
game's structure doesn't guarantee that the player will even know what
he's supposed to be doing with the opportunity when it arises. The
first time I searched the Reverend Gillespie's rooms, I didn't find his
figurine because I hadn't yet learned that I should be looking for one;
once I knew, it was too late and I had to replay the game from scratch.


[JA: This is a valid criticism.]

It's also fairly easy to run out of time on the game's main timer. Or
to do something that gives you away to your enemies but which does not
produce a result for several turns, so that you can't necessarily undo
your way back out of it. Or to attempt the puzzles in the wrong order,
and waste a long time banging your head against a problem that is
available but not yet possible to solve. Or to discover that you're not
*quite* *sure* whether you need something else to solve the puzzle
you're facing, so you repeatedly restore and replay to that point,
trying to come up with the right combination of props.

[JA: I tend to prefer a puzzle layout that is broad rather than narrow.
I'm not sure it's a good idea to use a puzzle scheme in which, upon
solving A, you're presented with B; upon solving B, you're presented
with C; and so on. Your description of my approach is fair -- the
sketchbook and the valise being one obvious example -- but I'm not sure
I'd change the overall pattern too substantially.]

I imagine the purpose of the timing puzzles is to heighten the tension,
but a straight turn limit is not necessarily the best way to accomplish
this. Compare "Anchorhead", where the revelations are staged over
several days, but time advances significantly only when progress has
been made, and it's unnecessary to replay until the timed puzzles of
the late game. This avoids some of the frustrations of "Last Resort",
and yet -- because each day is more frightening than the last --
"Anchorhead" offers a sense of gathering danger and advancement towards
an inevitable deadline, an emotional structure that "Last Resort"
lacks. In "Last Resort", the first time I encountered the timer that
ends the game, I was startled and annoyed; this was not the inevitable
outcome after hours of gathering dread, but a sudden and unwelcome
intrusion. The early game had been eventful, certainly, but during the
midgame none of the NPCs seemed to be doing anything, and I had begun
to relax and think I had time to solve what needed to be solved. Now I
was disabused of that notion, but in a way that took me out of the game
rather than immersing me in it more deeply. I had to replay parts of
the game several times to optimize my playtime, and the more I did
this, the less compelling and more mechanical the story appeared.

[JA: If I decide to do a new version of the game, I'll think very
seriously about this. I think the criticism is fair. In my own defense,
Aunt Caroline DOES tell you what the deadline is when you leave the
motel room for the first time.]

It might be argued that advancing the time only when the player makes
progress is an anti-mimetic approach to IF design: in real life, time
marches on while we putter around, and if we spend twenty-five minutes
in the basement turning out our pockets because we can't figure out
what object is most likely to get the trunk open, that will count
against us. But from a *narrative* perspective, I think the staged
timing is quite effective, because when we look back on a stretch of
played IF, what we remember is not the dozens of turns we spent
looking, moving in random directions, and taking inventory while we
tried to find inspiration, but the bits where we actually solved some
puzzle or other, made progress, saw unique text, explored new
territory.

With an improved puzzle structure and a more substantial plot, I think
"Last Resort" could have been one of the best horror games on the
archive. It certainly has the ambition to be one of those classics that
people come back to again and again. As I played, I was reminded of
"Anchorhead" -- usually to "Anchorhead"'s advantage, admittedly, but
it's not every game that would make me draw the comparison at all.

Al

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Dec 26, 2006, 9:18:15 PM12/26/06
to
There is a great deal of spoiler space between this line and the
several things I didn't like.

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1. Opening Caroline's suitcase. You can only open it if you have the
poker and hit it with the poker.
This to me was a real big stretch. Maybe Jim should have had you find
another key or after you had
killed the dagger in the Bedroom Alcove you could have cut the
suitcase open. Most people know what a fireplace poker is and it was
one of the last things I ever would have thought of.

2. Stopping the dagger by holding either one of the two boards oup or
using the bucket. Killing the dagger with the poker or the shovel
seemed a lot smarter. Why hold up a board because even whe the dagger
was stuck it was still "alive" so to speak and couldn't be used for
either a weapon to defend yourself or to cut open the suitcase above.

3. Opening the trunk in the basement with the bent croquet hoops was
kind a "cute" puzzle but one at which I'm sure players of version 1
will be calling Jim every which thing but loose.

4. Getting the key from Phelps IMHO was way way too complicated with
getting the bird to kill the spider, turning on the power, to the stove
making the cocoa, getting the pole and the hook etc,
A classic example of making a mountain out of a molehill.

5. The 2 farm boys also was something that should have probably been
interacted with more and to me they seemed to be nothing more than
"window dressing" other than the fact you could ask them about certain
things.

6. Finally way way too much NPC interaction which increased the game's
size unnecessarily IMHO.
I feel that only a very few things should have been asked of each NPC
an the game could still have been won but NOT too easily.

fauger

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Dec 27, 2006, 7:24:11 AM12/27/06
to

Emily Short

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Dec 27, 2006, 12:46:55 PM12/27/06
to

Al wrote:
> There is a great deal of spoiler space between this line and the
> several things I didn't like.
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> 1. Opening Caroline's suitcase. You can only open it if you have the
> poker and hit it with the poker.
> This to me was a real big stretch. Maybe Jim should have had you find
> another key or after you had
> killed the dagger in the Bedroom Alcove you could have cut the
> suitcase open. Most people know what a fireplace poker is and it was
> one of the last things I ever would have thought of.

and

> 3. Opening the trunk in the basement with the bent croquet hoops was
> kind a "cute" puzzle but one at which I'm sure players of version 1
> will be calling Jim every which thing but loose.

>From a design perspective, I can see why Jim wanted all the different
suitcases and trunks to be opened in different ways; as a player, I got
a bit frustrated that I had to keep thinking up new approaches to what
was essentially the same problem. (Or retrying approaches that had
failed on other suitcases, which is perhaps more irritating.) I'm not
sure I would ever have gotten the croquet hoop solution without some
hinting from outside.

There is at least one thing you can use on Aunt Caroline's suitcase
other than the poker, though. I didn't have too much trouble with that
one.

> 5. The 2 farm boys also was something that should have probably been
> interacted with more and to me they seemed to be nothing more than
> "window dressing" other than the fact you could ask them about certain
> things.

I don't know about that. If they'd been much more interactive, I might
have thought it was possible to get past them. As it was, I didn't try
very hard.

> 6. Finally way way too much NPC interaction which increased the game's
> size unnecessarily IMHO.
> I feel that only a very few things should have been asked of each NPC
> an the game could still have been won but NOT too easily.

Here again I disagree (but then I like NPC interaction). I do think
that the NPC conversations could have been better directed, though.

Jimmy Maher

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Dec 27, 2006, 4:12:20 PM12/27/06
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Al wrote:
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> 1. Opening Caroline's suitcase. You can only open it if you have the
> poker and hit it with the poker.
> This to me was a real big stretch. Maybe Jim should have had you find
> another key or after you had
> killed the dagger in the Bedroom Alcove you could have cut the
> suitcase open. Most people know what a fireplace poker is and it was
> one of the last things I ever would have thought of.

I played through the game with my girlfriend, and this was one of two
puzzles we were unable to solve on our own. It seems totally obvious in
retrospect, but the thing was that the game kept telling us that we were
not willing to resort to violence -- rather incongruous in itself, as if
I was about to be sacrificed to a demon I think the kid gloves would
come off, as it were -- anytime we tried to do anything even remotely
destructive to solve a puzzle. Therefore by the time we got to trying
to open Aunt Caroline's suitcase we had given up even trying that sort
of thing. Yes, this was sort of stupid on our part, but it was also a
major inconsistency on the part of the game I think.

The other one that stumped us was the necessity to "tell dog about
rabbit." We knew about the dog, knew about the rabbits, knew said dog
liked said rabbits and that this had to be the key to the puzzle, but
couldn't figure out how to bring the two together. The answer seemed a
bit ridiculous when we found it. This dog really understand English
well enough that I can just tell him there are rabbits in the meadow,
and he will understand? This after we had already tried pointing that
way, leading him that way with the leash, etc. The game never gave me
any reason to suspect I was actually dealing with Scooby Doo.

Overall, though, we really enjoyed the game. Big thanks to Jim for
writing it and making it available.

--
Jimmy Maher
Editor, SPAG Magazine -- http://www.sparkynet.com/spag
Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Dec 27, 2006, 6:00:26 PM12/27/06
to
In article <1167181383.0...@73g2000cwn.googlegroups.com>,
Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
[..]

>4) Jim had some responses to my comments, and I've included them here.
>They're the bits prefaced by JA: ...
[..]

>[JA: The sources of some of these criticisms are clear to me; others
>less so. I guess you didn't try FISH FOR KEY or LOWER HOOK INTO POCKET.
>The question of which scenery to make searchable is a difficult one,
>and I'm not sure there's a right answer. If you make everything
>searchable, then the player has to search everything, even though 95%
>of the searches will be fruitless. To me, a variant of "No, that's not
>very interesting" is being courteous to the player. I'm not sure what

Yeah. I'm not sure which Emily is thinking of with her gripes, but the
room that bothered me in particular was the Garden of Junk
room. Here's the sort of interaction I had with it, with some
interspersed comments:

A Garden of Junk
This may once have been a garden, but now it's just a final resting
place for junk, and nothing grows here but weeds. The falling-down
shack stands (if that's the right word) north of here, its single
square window looking out on the junk. The area where the van is
parked is to the northeast, and the area behind the cabins is east.

An old shovel is leaning against the wall of the shack.

You can also see an old burlap sack and a rubber hose here.

>x weeds
The weeds are proliferating with abandon. Some of them are spiky, some
are fleshy, some are creeping across the ground. If you hadn't slept
through the botany lesson, you might be able to think of some of their
names.

>search weeds
You poke around in the weeds for a minute, but find nothing of
interest.

This is a good interaction, in my book. The weeds are mentioned in the
room description, there's a response to searching the weeds, and it's
a response which, while not successful, is at least customized. The
only suggestion I'd have for improving it would be to have it point at
the actual thing to search, the junk. Maybe something like "You poke
around at the weeds at the base of the pile of junk for a minute .."

>x junk
Some of the junk is identifiable as parts of automobiles or farm
equipment. There are also a few rusted, half-disassembled kitchen
appliances scattered about, and a stack of rotting lumber.

>search junk
There's nothing useful among the junk.

>x appliances
Some of the junk is identifiable as parts of automobiles or farm
equipment. There are also a few rusted, half-disassembled kitchen
appliances scattered about, and a stack of rotting lumber.

>search appliances
There's nothing useful among the junk.

>x lumber
The stack of lumber is dirty, and rusting nails protrude here and
there. Most of it looks rotten, but one narrow board about five feet
long is in fair condition and also appears light enough to lift.

This one, on the other hand, is a bad interaction. First of all, it's
not obvious that the junk is an object at all, based on the room
description. It just says "a final resting place for junk" and then,
hey, there's some junk right there -- a shovel, a sack, and a
hose.

Next, there's the response to >SEARCH JUNK. This is awful! A much
better response would be "You'll have to say more specifically which
part of the junk to search" (or something less parser-y if you
prefer).

Then there's the issue of object levels -- really, if you're going to
implement one second-level object (the lumber) you have to also
implement the other second-level objects in the description (the
appliances) as a separate object.

Finally we get to the lumber itself, and this one I'm in favor of --
because it's a second-level object, and the player's already had to
inspect some other objects to get here, I like that the board shows up
on an examine rather than a search. If it had been mentioned in the
room description that'd be one thing, but here, searching would seem
excessive.

>The NPCs are like this as well; one has to stumble on the right
>keywords to trigger the desired outcome, but the player has no reason
>to know that he's even trying to accomplish this. Getting rid of Honey
>Hartwell was a typical example. I knew I needed to get inside her

[..]


>[JA: There are two keywords that will work. One of them (the wasps) is
>available at all times, the other (the CD) becomes available during the
>course of the game. If you mention the wasps to Tyrone, he'll give you
>a hint that it will work. And the CD is a topic she herself mentions
>earlier. So it's not entirely blind guesswork.]

Yeah, but (as far as I can tell) her objection is "I don't know what
to ask about", so a response of "when you think of keyword X, there is
a reason why it should work" isn't helpful -- the problem is thinking
of the keyword, not confirming it in retrospect. I think it's easy as
an author to fall into the trap of only trying to justify puzzles
after the fact, and forgetting that the player's coming it at from the
opposite direction -- they're in the woods wondering which path to
take, not at the end of the road looking back at the crossroads.

My experience is that if you want a player to ask an NPC about
something, the NPC has to behave in a way that you would normally call
freakishly obsessive. Like, here's how Honey behaves now:

>greet honey
Honey lowers her magazine and turns her face in your direction. "Well,
hello, there."

>ask honey about honey
"Well, how nice of you to ask!" Honey's self-satisfied tone indicates
that this polite response is a mere formality: She knew you'd be avid
to know all about her. "I'm a vocalist. Someday real soon I'm goin' to
be a big, big star."

>x magazine
Honey's clothes and her choice of reading matter are not something
you'd be inclined to waste much time thinking about.

Here's what I think it should be like:

>greet honey
Honey lowers her magazine and turns her face in your direction. "Well,
hello, there. Come lookin' for an autograph or a copy of my CD?"

>ask honey about honey
"Well, how nice of you to ask!" Honey's self-satisfied tone indicates
that this polite response is a mere formality: She knew you'd be avid
to know all about her. "I'm a vocalist. Someday real soon I'm goin' to
be a big, big star. I've got a CD out now -- I might have even
brought along a copy or two."

>x magazine
Honey's reading a trashy magazine about movie stars.

She looks up to see you watching her. "Someday I'm going to be in
here," she says, tapping the magazine. "Once my CD makes it to the
top of the charts."

Obviously my writing is only so-so, but you get the idea. Seriously,
there are lots of dumb players like me who miss the first two hints,
and then if there's nothing else, they're pretty much stuck.

Another idea here might be to have a wasp fly out from the nest
occasionally and circle over Honey for a second, just to hint that
there's some kind of interaction there.

You've also got the sunscreen mini-quest thing in the middle of the
interaction with Honey; it'd be good to have a reminder about the CD
or the wasps when that's completed.

>Because most of the puzzles require bursts of insight or luck rather
>than gradual solution, the player spends most of his time stuck and
>little actively making progress. The beginning of the game is better
>than the rest in this regard, since there's a lot to explore. But later
>progress does not open up many more rooms -- there are a few, but
>exploration never becomes a major part of the interaction again after
>the initial survey of the map. And the puzzle mechanisms are not mostly
>responsive to being played with.
>
>[JA: Again, I'd love to read a couple of examples of the type of
>responsiveness you'd like to see.
>
>ES: In the case of the NPCs, it might help if the conversations were
>more fluid and the player were led a bit more towards topics that
>produce useful results. With mechanical objects like the wall carvings,
>it would help to have something happen when the player has a partial
>solution.]

The wall carvings is a good example, since they appear to be more of a
"toy" than a "game" in the sense that they have an obvious way they
can be manipulated, but there's no clear win state or direction for
the player. The result is people try to guess at what it might be,
based on similar puzzles: hence all the people trying to get them all
pushed in or popped out or whatnot. But this isn't, generally
speaking, a good puzzle, since it's painful to have to guess at a
goal, work to get the puzzle into that state, and then find out you
were wrong and start over from scratch. Like Emily says, it'd be
useful to find out when you have the interaction partially correct,
since that hints at both the correct way to manipulate the pieces and
the correct goal to be working towards.

Emily doesn't say this explicitly, but another way to get the effect
she's looking for is to have more multi-stage puzzles. I actually kind
of liked the dog/boatshed puzzle for this (although I see she
disagrees), since the player did get to advance a step in multiple
places even if they couldn't get into the boathouse.

Another obvious place to put more responsiveness into the game might
be to require a puzzle or two to be solved before the house is
accessible, and perhaps another one to be solved before the upstairs
is (a classic setup would be to require the player to go up in the
dumbwaiter first, and do something upstairs that would let them go up
and down the stairs normally afterwards). This would give the player
some intermediate goals to accomplish in the game and, I think, pace
it somewhat better.

>Moreover, there are lots of puzzles which we have to solve without
>knowing why we're solving them. Here is my experience of the puzzle

[..]


>on spec. From there I saw that his pocket was open, and though X
>POCKET and SEARCH POCKET gave counter-intuitive answers, I figured he
>must have a key anyway. So I tried the hook on him, and after the

There is some NPC who'll tell you he has the boathouse key, but I
don't remember who -- aha, on a replay it's asking Tyrone about the
boat or the shed, which is reasonable enough. This seems like an
important enough stage in the game that it'd be good to make it more
obvious, though. Maybe the PC should actually see Beauregard putting
the key in his pocket. I can even imagine something Babelfish-like,
like Emily mentions below, where the PC gets her hands on the key
originally, and then is caught by Beauregard and he takes the key
away.

[..]


>[JA: The egg, the tongs, the floorboard, the candle, and the doll are
>all useful as alternate solutions to various puzzles. If I had left
>them out, the game would have been more difficult. I'm not sure that's
>a desirable outcome.]

I can't argue the specifics, especially since I couldn't figure out
what to do with the egg or the doll, but I don't think it's
necessarily true that alternate solutions make the game easier. If you
add an object to a game, you make it harder, because the player has
another object to try to figure out the purpose of. If this object is
used in a puzzle that may cancel out some of the difficulty, but it's
not obviously better than just leaving it out. Now, if the object has
to be in the game for some other reason, making it useful in another
puzzle has a net benefit, but it sounds like some of these things are
just in there for that.

>Once we've managed to discern a goal and carry it out, we find that
>many of the puzzles offer no reward for solving. The boat shed requires
>the player to solve, at my count, five separate puzzles to gain access.
>Solving the first three, concerning the dog, is a largely annoying
>experience. There's no progress; there's not even the entertainment of

[..]


>several reasons. For one thing, the pacing is wrong. The player has to
>solve one puzzle (for instance, giving the possum to the dog), then go
>away, do more work, come back, solve the next. For another, the
>failures aren't funny. When we try and fail to get the Babelfish, each
>new blockage is more absurd than the last. In the case of the boatshed,
>the new blockages aren't themselves interesting. We're not rewarded by
>getting to see something amusing. We're just *still* *stuck*.

On the other hand, the boatshed is basically the endgame puzzle, so
it's not necessarily bad that it has multiple layers that takes time
to open up. I agree that you do need some in-game reward for it,
though. Perhaps there's something dropped outside the shed that the
dog prevents you from getting if it's not your friend? Or perhaps when
the dog runs after the rabbits, it knocks over or uncovers or reveals
something? Or it loses its leash, which is then useful somehow?

Probably it'd be helpful design-wise to play up the boatshed more, if
it's the endgame area. The ghost girl could be much more explicit
about wanting to get into the boat and get away, Tyrone and David
could hint at it more blatantly, etc. Maybe you could even overhear
Beauregard say "She's not going anywhere, the boatshed's locked up
tight and I got the key right here".

>[JA: I've never played Hitchhiker's Guide. Humor would have been out of
>place in this story, I think. (There's a bit of it here and there, but
>not very much.) I'm not sure what plot information could plausibly have
>been added by the action of getting the leash off of the pole -- okay,
>the dog could have run around in circles for a minute, but that's not
>plot. Perhaps it was a bad or unnecessary puzzle, but I'm not sure the
>absence of new plot information is something I could easily remedy
>here.]

It doesn't actually have to be connected plot info. Like, you could
totally do a cutscene with Beauregard sharpening his knife or checking
the clock or performing some kind of warm-up ceremony. That'd get the
player's attention and set the mood without forcing the gameworld
any.

>[JA: To me, Last Resort has about the same dimensions as a short story.
>It's not a novel or even a novella, so I don't feel it's quite
>appropriate to expect that there will be major plot developments that
>will unfold after more than two hours of play. But perhaps I'm being
>naive or shortsighted.]

Well, comp games often have more plot than Last Resort. Not always,
certainly, but often. And also note that Emily is talking about
exploration in general -- unlocking new areas or new items also
counts, in addition to new plot/backstory. I guess one standard bit of
backstory would be to see more scenes of the ghost girl's
experience -- how she got lured here, what her brother(?) was like,
who else was at the motel to benefit from her death, etc.

[..]


>a role somehow. In fact, we never find out whose nursery this was; it's
>an odd room to have in a house that seems only barely to have been
>inhabited for the last few decades, and certainly Phelps himself
>doesn't have a family that we hear about. So what's this all about? The
>doll isn't a red herring in the puzzle sense -- those are forgivable --
>but a plot red herring. Likewise, Luisa: there are vague hints about

Luisa does say there was a baby once but it's gone, but, yeah, we
don't know much more. My assumption was that the baby died and this
tipped Beauregard over the edge into being evil, but that's a big
assumption. There's also the mysterious clown in the nursery, which
doesn't quite fit the Aztec or the voodoo mythology.

[..]


>[JA: See above comment about how your imagination was stimulated. That
>said, you're right that more could have been done with this room -- but
>it would still have been purely decorative, in terms of the actual
>progress of the game.]

So don't include it then! The way to make a room more involving and
interesting is to make it relevant -- put some object in the Room of
Bones you need to scare the scorpions away with, or a passkey you need
to manipulate the stone door (or a clue for how to operate the stone
door).

[..]


>To exit this area, we're faced with the problem of the carvings. This
>is unquestionably the worst puzzle in the game. There's nothing to tell

As a minorly-interesting counterpoint, I didn't have that much trouble
with the carvings, although they did take me a while and were
frustrating. The thing I had the most trouble with was getting my aunt
out of the bathroom, which Emily didn't even mention, so I expect that
went smoothly for her.

[..]


>It's also fairly easy to run out of time on the game's main timer. Or
>to do something that gives you away to your enemies but which does not
>produce a result for several turns, so that you can't necessarily undo
>your way back out of it. Or to attempt the puzzles in the wrong order,

Multiple undo! Don't leave home without it!

[..]


>[JA: I tend to prefer a puzzle layout that is broad rather than narrow.
>I'm not sure it's a good idea to use a puzzle scheme in which, upon
>solving A, you're presented with B; upon solving B, you're presented
>with C; and so on. Your description of my approach is fair -- the
>sketchbook and the valise being one obvious example -- but I'm not sure
>I'd change the overall pattern too substantially.]

Yeah, clearly the ideal is something where the player doesn't feel
railroaded but doesn't feel overwhelmed either. It's a tricky balance
to strike and is definitely a matter of personal taste at least to
some extent.

[..]


>It might be argued that advancing the time only when the player makes
>progress is an anti-mimetic approach to IF design: in real life, time
>marches on while we putter around, and if we spend twenty-five minutes
>in the basement turning out our pockets because we can't figure out
>what object is most likely to get the trunk open, that will count
>against us. But from a *narrative* perspective, I think the staged
>timing is quite effective, because when we look back on a stretch of
>played IF, what we remember is not the dozens of turns we spent
>looking, moving in random directions, and taking inventory while we
>tried to find inspiration, but the bits where we actually solved some
>puzzle or other, made progress, saw unique text, explored new
>territory.

I basically agree with this. Another good game to see this in action
is Christminster. You do run the risk of the player thinking "ok, what
do I have to do now to get the hour to advance?" which isn't a great
mentality either, but in Last Resort it's not actually that necessary
for the hour to advance for the player to accomplish things, so I
think it'd be a pretty good fit here.

--
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW

Maureen Mason

unread,
Dec 27, 2006, 6:13:31 PM12/27/06
to
Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:

[... a very detailed criticism of the puzzle design in Last Resort -
this reply also has spoilers]

Interesting discussion (great examples and suggestions, too) about how
the puzzle-structure of this game failed you when it came to pacing the
story. As I read it, that includes the pacing of your player experience
moving through the game -- the momentum and rewards you need to keep
going -- and also the unfolding of the plot, which has to be satisfying
or at the very least should happen in the right order.

I was less harsh about the game from the outset, maybe because I lucked
out in my gameplay and didn't trigger events out of sequence the way you
did. I had to go back and re-do puzzles but I usually knew *why* I was
working on something -- e.g., someone told me the key was in Phelps'
pants pocket so my goal was to get it. Why did I go up to the main
house before knocking on cabin doors? How did I get into enough
conversations with NPCs to keep from working on puzzles in the dark?
I'm not sure, but clearly it would help for those actions to be better
directed.

I agree that individual puzzles that stop our momentum cold for no good
reason other than to extend gameplay are a bad thing. The last dog
puzzle (like Jimmy Maher also mentioned) I found particularly annoying:
to finally placate and free the dog and *still* not have it get out of
my way was too much. I felt the same way about having the drugged drink
not work on Phelps if he heard the floorboards creak.

Broad vs. narrow puzzle layout

Emily said Jim said:
> [JA: I tend to prefer a puzzle layout that is broad rather than narrow.
> I'm not sure it's a good idea to use a puzzle scheme in which, upon
> solving A, you're presented with B; upon solving B, you're presented
> with C; and so on. Your description of my approach is fair -- the
> sketchbook and the valise being one obvious example -- but I'm not sure
> I'd change the overall pattern too substantially.]

I like what Jim was trying for. If I'm going to play a puzzle-heavy
game, I prefer it to be "open" or "broad". If I'm stuck, I want to be
able to move off and do something else for a while that might advance
the story, or my understanding of the story. I generally don't like to
be herded from one set of puzzles to another, one at a time, because
*that* stops my momentum cold. It takes such excellent and well-clued
and -calibrated puzzles to make the "herding" experience satisfying to
me (Monkfish is one game I remember worked really well for me, I was
able to keep a really good momentum from one puzzle-set to the next).
I'm playing Ephraksis right now, slowly (because of the French) and
though there are things I really like about the game I just sigh every
time I hit a new puzzle I can't solve, because there's nowhere to go and
nothing to do until I solve it.

So in a puzzle-driven game that's "broad", how do you direct the player
so that the momentum and pacing feel right?

*Constrain the player

There's not much constraint in Last Resort, what you (Emily) called
"puzzle-as-pacing-mechanism", to keep players on track. Pretty much all
of the map and NPCs open up early, and it doesn't take long to figure
out what the "picnic" is, so the player and the PC aren't prevented in
the usual ways from entering new areas or learning the plot and the goal
of the game.

Jim's website says:
> "Last Resort" is an attempt to use the medium of interactive fiction
> for a serious story with an actual plot. Since plot is by definition
> linear, while interactive fiction is by definition non-linear, this
> presented certain challenges.

I get it that, when a game is very wide open and non-linear in the way
Jim says he was going for, it may be just some artful illusion. There
has to be something to ensure the game unfolds in a satisfying way.
That's why an adaptation like Manalive, which felt so lively and wide
open at the beginning, disappointed me: nothing but a walkthrough or
mindreading could ensure I wouldn't get completely stuck or do things
wildly out of order.

I assumed there was some illusion at work in Last Resort because the
game moved for me in a pretty satisfying way. On the surface I could
see that there were puzzles with more than one solution, in case I
missed my first window of opportunity by doing things in a different
order than expected. I also assumed there was underlying programming at
work to ensure I'd actually have enough time to finish the game, that
NPCs would talk to me at the right time, etc. I'm not sure how much of
that is true but, for example, can't Hank be programmed not to answer
his door until after the PC's been in the house and/or talked to other
PCs?

*Reward the player

People probably have strong opinions about what rewards keep a player
happy and moving through a story at just the right clip. High up there
for me -- other than good writing, which also keeps me going in a book
-- are getting to explore new environments, getting new stuff
(especially if you can use it in interesting ways), and getting new
pieces of the backstory, conspiracy or plot. In a wide-open game like
Last Resort, the main rewards for me were (1) actually *doing* something
I'd planned, after getting all the pieces together, e.g., putting Phelps
to sleep or the mad dash to the boat, and (2) finding interesting
inventory items that I could do stuff with. Good thing, too, because I
spent a lot of time futzing with those inventory items! I actually
liked that there were extra ones you didn't have to use (but could)
because it kept my mind busy with things like "What's that egg for?
Wonder if I can press this soft wax onto a carving? Maybe I'll need to
breathe through that hose in the swamp!"

Emily said:
> Perhaps the biggest wasted opportunity in the game was the Aztec area
> through the stone slab. Here we have a space that could reveal much
> about the history of Phelps' relationship with the demon, about its
> function in Aztec society, about the transition from its pre-Columbian
> manifestation to its modern one.

[...]

> "Last Resort" disappoints, from a plot perspective, partly
> because there simply isn't *enough* story -- not enough development,
> not enough use made of the places where more narrative would be welcome
> after a tough challenge -- and partly because what's there is not
> structured to best advantage.

Breaking through to a different -- green! jungly! -- world through the
portal was refreshing but I disagree, I don't see that more narrative or
worldbuilding in that area would've been a satisfying reward for me
there. Maybe that's because I didn't resonate with the faux Aztec/Mayan
cosmology to begin with, and so more details might've just made me
cringe. But I think the real reason is that what interested me more
than ancient demons devouring virgins was that all these very ordinary
banal people lounging around their tatty resort -- my own aunt included
-- were willing to KILL me, in horrible ways! Some were embarassed by
it, some totally callous, others outright remorseful. To me *that* was
the interesting horror story, just like in Anchorhead the fact that your
own husband is going over to the dark side is so very creepy.

And speaking of Anchorhead ...

Since we've been praising Anchorhead lately (plus now the new, improved
demo version is available to revisit the game), I remember that
Anchorhead did a great job at letting me work on several different
puzzles at once, the map was huge, the pacing was great, and some of the
most satisfying rewards came in the form of new plot information from
court records, news stories, laptop, journal, etc. But even though the
calendar structure in that game wasn't too instrusive or hand-holding,
and it constrained me in a pretty natural way from reaching puzzles and
plot in the wrong order, I still remember feeling frustrated at times as
I wandered around wondering whether the puzzle that had me stumped was
even solveable yet, and how do I trigger the next game-day, already?!

Maureen

Emily Short

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Dec 27, 2006, 8:39:44 PM12/27/06
to

Maureen Mason wrote:
> Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>
> [... a very detailed criticism of the puzzle design in Last Resort -
> this reply also has spoilers]
>
>

> Breaking through to a different -- green! jungly! -- world through the
> portal was refreshing but I disagree, I don't see that more narrative or
> worldbuilding in that area would've been a satisfying reward for me
> there. Maybe that's because I didn't resonate with the faux Aztec/Mayan
> cosmology to begin with, and so more details might've just made me
> cringe.

I see what you mean, but I would have been especially interested if
that area (or that stage of the game) had revealed more of how Phelps
got involved in all this to start with. Did he meet Luisa and then
discover this ritual through her? Or did he already know about it? And
what is the temporal relationship of these places, anyway? I had the
impression that I'd gone back in time by stepping inside the slab -- or
maybe into some timeless place accessible to all the demon's
worshippers.

> But I think the real reason is that what interested me more
> than ancient demons devouring virgins was that all these very ordinary
> banal people lounging around their tatty resort -- my own aunt included
> -- were willing to KILL me, in horrible ways! Some were embarassed by
> it, some totally callous, others outright remorseful. To me *that* was
> the interesting horror story, just like in Anchorhead the fact that your
> own husband is going over to the dark side is so very creepy.

Yes, a good point. I often found myself wishing that my explorations in
the cabins were a little more informative: you're allowed to look at
people's clothing and possessions, but the descriptions are usually not
very interesting. Whereas I think in that situation I would be quite
curious about the motives of this group of people who were so willing
to do away with me.

To give credit where due, I did find David reasonably fleshed-out in
that respect -- there were enough hints in his conversation to give me
a pretty good sense of what had happened to him and what was motivating
him now, and if the story was a little sketchy in spots, I wouldn't
have expected him to confide more personal information than that
anyway, especially to a young teenager.

And Honey's comment about her "gratitude". That was good too.

igna...@mac.com

unread,
Dec 27, 2006, 10:56:51 PM12/27/06
to
Just a few soothing words: I just finished the game and I really
enjoyed it. The difficulty seemed just about right to me and I never
had to resort to hints. I might just have been lucky, but still. Keep
up the good work!

Maureen Mason

unread,
Dec 27, 2006, 11:29:06 PM12/27/06
to
Dan Shiovitz <d...@cs.wisc.edu> wrote:
> There is some NPC who'll tell you he has the boathouse key, but I
> don't remember who -- aha, on a replay it's asking Tyrone about the
> boat or the shed, which is reasonable enough. This seems like an
> important enough stage in the game that it'd be good to make it more
> obvious, though. Maybe the PC should actually see Beauregard putting
> the key in his pocket. I can even imagine something Babelfish-like,
> like Emily mentions below, where the PC gets her hands on the key
> originally, and then is caught by Beauregard and he takes the key
> away.

These and your other suggestions for clueing puzzles better would
definitely help, especially with those conversation problems like, What
if you never ask Tyrone about the boat? What if you forgot Honey
mentioned a CD?

One of the odds things about improving the puzzles like this, though, is
that it feels like trying to add a hint system to the game. There *was*
a hint system in the game, right? We just never saw it.


[on the subject of providing incremental rewards for multiple puzzles
like the ones with the dog]


> It doesn't actually have to be connected plot info. Like, you could
> totally do a cutscene with Beauregard sharpening his knife or checking
> the clock or performing some kind of warm-up ceremony. That'd get the
> player's attention and set the mood without forcing the gameworld
> any.

Nice suggestion! Cutscenes like that can be rewarding even when there's
no tangible item to show for puzzle-solving. Plus I like how a well-
done cutscene adds atmosphere to a game.

Maureen

Maureen Mason

unread,
Dec 27, 2006, 11:51:19 PM12/27/06
to
Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
> I see what you mean, but I would have been especially interested if
> that area (or that stage of the game) had revealed more of how Phelps
> got involved in all this to start with. Did he meet Luisa and then
> discover this ritual through her? Or did he already know about it? And
> what is the temporal relationship of these places, anyway? I had the
> impression that I'd gone back in time by stepping inside the slab -- or
> maybe into some timeless place accessible to all the demon's
> worshippers.

You're right, a lot of things are left unexplained. How it all started,
presumably something to do with that old altar in the field. How Phelps
first found the figurines or they found him. What Luisa knew, why she
was immune from sacrifice but also hasn't seemed to benefit (e.g.,
immortality) in any way. Tyrone's relationship to it all.

It's almost the opposite of the kind of game where a large part of the
pleasure is discovering in great detail how the world works. Here, if
you look too closely at the backstory, you realize it's all a bit out of
focus.

But at least it's all out of focus ... the same amount, if you know what
I mean. The gaps aren't too irritating or overly distracting from the
main game.

Maureen

Jim Aikin

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Dec 28, 2006, 2:17:03 AM12/28/06
to

"Emily Short" <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote in message
news:1167241615....@48g2000cwx.googlegroups.com...

>
> Al wrote:
>> There is a great deal of spoiler space between this line and the
>> several things I didn't like.
>>
>> S
>>
>> P
>>
>> O
>>
>> I
>>
>> L
>>
>> E
>>
>> R
>>
>>
>> S
>>
>> P
>>
>> A
>>
>> C
>>
>> E
>>
>>
>>
>>From a design perspective, I can see why Jim wanted all the different
> suitcases and trunks to be opened in different ways; as a player, I got
> a bit frustrated that I had to keep thinking up new approaches to what
> was essentially the same problem.

In a topological sense, EVERYTHING in interactive fiction is a locked door.
If all of the locked doors could be opened with the same key, or for that
matter if they could all be opened with things called "keys," the art form
would be a great deal less interesting than it is. I make no apology for
implementing different solutions to three apparently similar dilemmas.

>> 6. Finally way way too much NPC interaction which increased the game's
>> size unnecessarily IMHO.
>> I feel that only a very few things should have been asked of each NPC
>> an the game could still have been won but NOT too easily.
>
> Here again I disagree (but then I like NPC interaction). I do think
> that the NPC conversations could have been better directed, though.

I'm not sure how one would "direct" a nonlinear, interactive conversation,
other than by giving the player a fixed set of options. This is one of the
methodologies available in TADS 3 -- after a bit of conversation, the
software may say, "You could ask Tyrone about the wasps, or the van, or his
grandfather." To me, this feels a bit intrusive.

I'm also not entirely convinced by TADS 3's system for allowing you to
mention the same topic several times (using 'g'), producing a series of
different outputs until at last you hit one that repeats. This system has
the benefit of reading more like a conversation, but it forces the player to
try to turn EVERY topic into an extended conversation, in order to make sure
nothing has been missed.

I'm going to experiment with both of these systems. I'm not rejecting them
out of hand, I'm just saying that I'm not convinced the problem of creating
a "better directed" conversation has been solved in an entirely satisfying
way.

--JA


Jim Aikin

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Dec 28, 2006, 2:23:47 AM12/28/06
to

"Jimmy Maher" <mah...@SPAMgrandecom.net> wrote in message
news:12p5odn...@corp.supernews.com...

> Al wrote:
>> S
>>
>> P
>>
>> O
>>
>> I
>>
>> L
>>
>> E
>>
>> R
>>
>>
>> S
>>
>> P
>>
>> A
>>
>> C
>>
>> E
>>
>>
>>
> The other one that stumped us was the necessity to "tell dog about
> rabbit." We knew about the dog, knew about the rabbits, knew said dog
> liked said rabbits and that this had to be the key to the puzzle, but
> couldn't figure out how to bring the two together. The answer seemed a
> bit ridiculous when we found it. This dog really understand English well
> enough that I can just tell him there are rabbits in the meadow, and he
> will understand? This after we had already tried pointing that way,
> leading him that way with the leash, etc. The game never gave me any
> reason to suspect I was actually dealing with Scooby Doo.

I agree that this puzzle is borderline unfair. I thought of it because I
happened to be hanging around with a dog that knew the word "kitties." You
could tell Mika about the kitties and he would jump up and go outside to
look for them. I've read that some sheepdogs have a vocabulary of several
hundred words.

So it's not actually implausible, it's just unfair. If I had had both
Beauregard and Tyrone respond to 'ask about dog' by mentioning that he's a
bright dog who understands a number of words, it would have been eminently
fair. (I believe he will respond to 'sit' and 'roll over', unless I'm
misremembering what I did. After you make friends with him, of course.)

--JA


Jim Aikin

unread,
Dec 28, 2006, 2:40:49 AM12/28/06
to
"Dan Shiovitz" <d...@cs.wisc.edu> wrote in message
news:emutua$9b8$1...@cascadia.drizzle.com...

> In article <1167181383.0...@73g2000cwn.googlegroups.com>,
> Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
Your point about object levels and the junk seems sensible to me. But I'm
very unsure about this:

> Here's what I think it should be like:
>
> >greet honey
> Honey lowers her magazine and turns her face in your direction. "Well,
> hello, there. Come lookin' for an autograph or a copy of my CD?"
>
> >ask honey about honey
> "Well, how nice of you to ask!" Honey's self-satisfied tone indicates
> that this polite response is a mere formality: She knew you'd be avid
> to know all about her. "I'm a vocalist. Someday real soon I'm goin' to
> be a big, big star. I've got a CD out now -- I might have even
> brought along a copy or two."
>
> >x magazine
> Honey's reading a trashy magazine about movie stars.
>
> She looks up to see you watching her. "Someday I'm going to be in
> here," she says, tapping the magazine. "Once my CD makes it to the
> top of the charts."
>
> Obviously my writing is only so-so, but you get the idea.

Or I could just have a dirigible float by dragging a flashing red neon sign
across the sky that says, "ASK HONEY ABOUT HER CD!!!!!"

Okay, maybe ONE more mention of the CD somewhere along the line, but not
three of them. Since the wasps were the original solution to this puzzle (I
added the CD after testers commented that some of the puzzles were too
hard), it would be very appropriate to add a line where Honey fidgets and
squirms or slaps her arm and says, "I hate bugs. They give me the creeps."
That would be in character.

> Another obvious place to put more responsiveness into the game might
> be to require a puzzle or two to be solved before the house is
> accessible, and perhaps another one to be solved before the upstairs
> is (a classic setup would be to require the player to go up in the
> dumbwaiter first, and do something upstairs that would let them go up
> and down the stairs normally afterwards). This would give the player
> some intermediate goals to accomplish in the game and, I think, pace
> it somewhat better.

You've been reading over my shoulder. I'm starting work on an entirely new
version in which the house won't be accessible at first. Beauregard is
simply going to stop Diane from going through the front door. There will be
other improvements in pacing as well.

> There is some NPC who'll tell you he has the boathouse key, but I
> don't remember who -- aha, on a replay it's asking Tyrone about the
> boat or the shed, which is reasonable enough. This seems like an
> important enough stage in the game that it'd be good to make it more
> obvious, though. Maybe the PC should actually see Beauregard putting
> the key in his pocket.

Beauregard himself pats his pocket and tells you he has the key if you ask
him about the boat shed.

> Probably it'd be helpful design-wise to play up the boatshed more, if
> it's the endgame area. The ghost girl could be much more explicit
> about wanting to get into the boat and get away, Tyrone and David
> could hint at it more blatantly, etc. Maybe you could even overhear
> Beauregard say "She's not going anywhere, the boatshed's locked up
> tight and I got the key right here".

Not a bad suggestion, except that for all Beauregard knows, she could just
walk away down the road (as, in real life, she certainly could do). The only
reason they're letting Diane run around loose is that they have no idea she
knows what's going on.

> I guess one standard bit of
> backstory would be to see more scenes of the ghost girl's
> experience -- how she got lured here, what her brother(?) was like,
> who else was at the motel to benefit from her death, etc.

Interesting suggestion. Thanks!

> Luisa does say there was a baby once but it's gone, but, yeah, we
> don't know much more. My assumption was that the baby died and this
> tipped Beauregard over the edge into being evil, but that's a big
> assumption. There's also the mysterious clown in the nursery, which
> doesn't quite fit the Aztec or the voodoo mythology.

Yeah, the clown was a goof. I got carried away with my own cleverness, I'm
afraid.

> So don't include it then! The way to make a room more involving and
> interesting is to make it relevant -- put some object in the Room of
> Bones you need to scare the scorpions away with, or a passkey you need
> to manipulate the stone door (or a clue for how to operate the stone
> door).

Good suggestion. Thanks. Thanks for all the feedback. Seriously.

--JA

Jim Aikin

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Dec 28, 2006, 2:51:16 AM12/28/06
to

<igna...@mac.com> wrote in message
news:1167278211.5...@42g2000cwt.googlegroups.com...

You can be my friend!

Seriously, though -- I think it's fascinating that different players have
such different reactions. Some of the differences are clearly a reflection
of the fact that people got stuck on certain puzzles and therefore got
annoyed. Other reactions relate to more general aspects of the design.

All of the reactions are worth meditating on. I have to say, I think it's a
marvelous thing about the IF community that an author can get this kind of
feedback from readers. It's ... interactive, isn't it?

--JA


Emily Short

unread,
Dec 28, 2006, 12:50:33 PM12/28/06
to

I partly agree with you, but only partly. The thing is that when the
dilemmas are similar but have different solutions, the player winds up
thinking up a list of possible solutions to this particular problem,
then having to go through all of them for each puzzle. And in some
cases the feedback about one case might mislead the player about the
solutions to others.

However. I had more trouble with other things, and am not sure this
particular one is a big deal.

> >> 6. Finally way way too much NPC interaction which increased the game's
> >> size unnecessarily IMHO.
> >> I feel that only a very few things should have been asked of each NPC
> >> an the game could still have been won but NOT too easily.
> >
> > Here again I disagree (but then I like NPC interaction). I do think
> > that the NPC conversations could have been better directed, though.
>
> I'm not sure how one would "direct" a nonlinear, interactive conversation,
> other than by giving the player a fixed set of options.

No, what I'm thinking of is not a mechanical solution, but a writing
solution. Some NPC conversation in IF is written in such a way that a
given snippet of conversation seems to suggest follow-up topics; if the
player explores those, he gradually covers all the important stuff that
the author wanted him to know.

Some of the conversation in Last Resort meets that description (I'm
mostly thinking of the conversation with David), but a lot of it also
feels more random-access-like: the player thinks of a bunch of
different keywords based on other experiences in the game, but there
isn't much flow from one conversation snippet to the next, and there
aren't many hints leading into the important conversation topics.

Emily Short

unread,
Dec 28, 2006, 1:03:18 PM12/28/06
to

Maureen Mason wrote:
> You're right, a lot of things are left unexplained...

>
> It's almost the opposite of the kind of game where a large part of the
> pleasure is discovering in great detail how the world works. Here, if
> you look too closely at the backstory, you realize it's all a bit out of
> focus.
>
> But at least it's all out of focus ... the same amount, if you know what
> I mean. The gaps aren't too irritating or overly distracting from the
> main game.

I wonder how much my reaction was because I expected the game to be
plottier than it is. I encountered the game's main premise very early
on; at that point I was expecting more twists. So I saw all the vague
hints about Tyrone and Luisa and etc. as possible foreshadowing of
further events and expected them to go somewhere.

villagedweller

unread,
Dec 28, 2006, 3:33:05 PM12/28/06
to

Although I agree that there were some problems, my experience of the
game was very different than Emily's; many of the difficulties she
encountered I didn't have at all, and I really don't know why that is,
except that, as I elaborate below, I think I am more of a puzzler to
begin with. Anyway, to provide a different perspective, I'll lay out my
reasoning as best I remember it...

>
> The NPCs are like this as well; one has to stumble on the right
> keywords to trigger the desired outcome, but the player has no reason
> to know that he's even trying to accomplish this. Getting rid of Honey
> Hartwell was a typical example.

I found the wasp solution relatively straightforward. The wasp nest
itself is a pretty big clue that someone is going to go running--either
Phelps or Honey. The conversation with Tyrone about the wasps clears
this up right away.

> Moreover, there are lots of puzzles which we have to solve without
> knowing why we're solving them. Here is my experience of the puzzle
> involving the cup of cocoa and the fishing pole: I found the sleeping
> pill, the cocoa, the kettle, and the mug. The pill had obvious
> potential; it was less clear why I wanted the other things, but THINK
> told me I should get the stove to work again. Eventually it did occur
> to me to make some cocoa and give it to Phelps with the sleeping pill,
> but for the wrong reasons.

Again, conversations make this one pretty clear--both Tyrone and Luisa
provide information and so does Phelps himself. They all tell you he
normally drinks cocoa in the afternoon, and he tells you it makes you
sleepy--so the sleeping pill is a pretty clear extension.

The barrenness of the kitchen was a disappointment, but didn't
interfere with my puzzle-solving. And the egg is useful if you want to
tie up Luisa for a long sequence of turns.

> on spec. From there I saw that his pocket was open, and though X
> POCKET and SEARCH POCKET gave counter-intuitive answers, I figured he
> must have a key anyway. So I tried the hook on him, and after the
> aforementioned guess-the-verb trouble, managed to catch the key and get
> it away.

I did find the fishing pole puzzle problematic; I, too, searched for
the right words and having a few more verbs here would make the puzzle
fairer.

One might think to make cocoa just because cocoa
> is implemented in the game; but the game also contains a breakable egg,
> a candle, a Bible, a floorboard, tongs, an antique doll, and assorted
> other items I never needed.
>

As jim points out, all of these things do add something; I was able to
do something with all of them with reasonable results (not the doll,
but the scarf she is wearing). Moreover, when not in front of my
computer, I found myself thinking about how various object function in
the real world, and this did help me progress--it wasn't enough alone,
granted, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of times I wasn't
thinking in a meta way.

> Once we've managed to discern a goal and carry it out, we find that
> many of the puzzles offer no reward for solving. The boat shed requires
> the player to solve, at my count, five separate puzzles to gain access.
> Solving the first three, concerning the dog, is a largely annoying
> experience. There's no progress; there's not even the entertainment of
> seeing an interesting cut scene or learning some bit of plot
> information.

The boat shed is a weakness, I agree. The phrasing needed to get Bailey
to run away isn't natural (Bailey, rabbits is my preferred choice), and
the extra herb puzzle (which really isn't a puzzle and just forces you
to make about 15 extra moves) was annoying.

If the rabbit puzzle had been better implemented, it would have been
fine by me. There are ample clues that rabbits are the key to the
puzzle (and that the possum is the first step).


> It's not as though there was nowhere else for the plot to go. There
> were several things that I would have been interested to know about and
> which could have provided additional scenes. There's the figurine dust,
> which piles up in an ominous way. There's the doll in the abandoned
> nursery: it appeared suspicious, and I expected it to turn out to play
> a role somehow. In fact, we never find out whose nursery this was; it's
> an odd room to have in a house that seems only barely to have been
> inhabited for the last few decades, and certainly Phelps himself
> doesn't have a family that we hear about. So what's this all about? The
> doll isn't a red herring in the puzzle sense -- those are forgivable --
> but a plot red herring. Likewise, Luisa: there are vague hints about
> where she came from and why, but we never find out much more. A scene
> with her, or about her past, might have added structure to the midgame
> and shed more light on the history of this bizarre place. Then there's
> Tyrone's mask: what is *his* "congregation", then? Are we to assume
> that just about everyone belongs to some demon or other, really?
> David's dialogue about Christianity and the marked passages in the
> Gideon Bible do suggest as much. This strand of thought is never
> followed up in any interesting way, though, and the winning ending
> implies that everything is Just Fine Now.
>

I agree that the plot could have been elaborated in these ways, and
that would have been enjoyable. The plot did seem like a puzzle
delivery system at times, though, and this is a matter of taste, it
doesn't bother me much. Too much zork as a child warped my brain, I
guess... ;^)

One other thing--the croquet hoop, which I guess gave people fits. I
actually found this puzzle very easy--the hoop was the first or second
thing I picked up, and after trying it as a hoop in a lock, I unbent it
and that was that. Again, this may be my puzzler mindset--why the heck
would there be a croquet pitch if it wasn't something to poke around
in? And that it only opens one lock makes perfect sense to me--if
you've spent much time picking locks with found objects (yes, i enjoyed
this pastime as a child)--even very similar locks need slightly bigger
or smaller or different shaped picks. So, I was actually rather pleased
that the hoop didn't become a skeleton key.

I agree that the game needs some revision, and I hope Jim will put in
the time to do it--I'll sign up now as a second-round beta tester. With
a little more plot and some puzzle tweaking, I think it could be a
really nice 4-5 star game.

Jim Aikin

unread,
Dec 28, 2006, 5:13:15 PM12/28/06
to

"villagedweller" <village...@googlemail.com> wrote in message
news:1167337985.0...@s34g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
>
>s
>p
>o
>i
>l
>e
>r
>
>s
>p
>o
>i
>l
>e
>r

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> The boat shed is a weakness, I agree. The phrasing needed to get Bailey
> to run away isn't natural (Bailey, rabbits is my preferred choice), and
> the extra herb puzzle (which really isn't a puzzle and just forces you
> to make about 15 extra moves) was annoying.

The extra herb puzzle, while somewhat forced, is absolutely necessary for
the story/game structure as a whole to work. There has to be _some_ reason
why you need to bring Lydia back to life. If there isn't, you could just get
into the shed and sail away, skipping the whole Aztec/Mayan area entirely.

Given that necessity, it's really fairly awkward to think of things that
Lydia might be able to help with, having been dead since 1934 and all. The
hallucinations and the magic leaves were a big stretch, but it was the best
I could come up with.

> I agree that the game needs some revision, and I hope Jim will put in
> the time to do it--I'll sign up now as a second-round beta tester.

I'll take you up on that.

Opinion seems to be split on whether a new version is needed, or whether
this one is fine as is. My current plan (unless I get distracted, which is
always possible) is to leave this version as is and redo the whole thing
from the bottom up in TADS 3. There will be a few new puzzles, a few
revisions of existing puzzles (the carving/buttons in the stone tunnel will
be replaced with something more natural), and the story will have a clear
five-scene structure and no time limits in any scene.

I expect it to be ready for testing in about three months, give or take.
Most of that time will be taken up learning TADS.

--JA


PTN

unread,
Dec 28, 2006, 5:15:49 PM12/28/06
to
Emily Short wrote:
> At no point in this sequence was I sensibly motivated either in or out
> of character. My PC had no good reason to undertake some of these
> actions -- why mess with the fusebox when she barely knows what it is
> and has no reason to want to make cocoa anyway? And I, as
> text-adventurer, have no good reason for it either, other than that the
> THINK command tells me I should do something with the stove.

I wonder if the problem here is in the THINK command, not in the
puzzles or the game itself. I never used the THINK command, didn't
realize it was there, and therefore was never prompted to solve a
puzzle before I felt the character should solve a puzzle. I started
fiddling with the stove only after I decided I wanted to give cocoa to
the guy on the porch, so there was no disconnect for me in this
sequence. When I was stuck for something to do next, I just wandered
around talking to the different characters until I got an idea of how
to proceed. Which I think works just fine as an in-game hint system.

THINK would work better if it only listed specifics when they were
relevant. So the stove wouldn't show up on the list just because you
found it. The first thing on the list would be getting into the shed
(to escape). Later, when you figure out he has the key, getting the key
from his pocket would appear. Still later, when you realize he likes to
drink cocoa and nap or whatever in the afternoon, that would appear.
And so on. It all sounds remarkably complicated which is why I say just
get rid of the thing entirely and open up the main hint system for use
instead.

-- Peter
http://www.illuminatedlantern.com/if

Mike Harris

unread,
Dec 28, 2006, 6:00:36 PM12/28/06
to
On Thu, 28 Dec 2006 09:50:33 -0800, Emily Short wrote:


> Jim Aikin wrote:
>> "Emily Short" <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote in message
>> news:1167241615....@48g2000cwx.googlegroups.com...
>> >
>> > Al wrote:
>> >> There is a great deal of spoiler space between this line and the
>> >> several things I didn't like.
>> >>
>> >> S
>> >>
>> >> P
>> >>
>> >> O
>> >>
>> >> I
>> >>
>> >> L
>> >>
>> >> E
>> >>
>> >> R
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> S
>> >>
>> >> P
>> >>
>> >> A
>> >>
>> >> C
>> >>
>> >> E

>> I'm not sure how one would "direct" a nonlinear, interactive


>> conversation, other than by giving the player a fixed set of options.
>
> No, what I'm thinking of is not a mechanical solution, but a writing
> solution. Some NPC conversation in IF is written in such a way that a
> given snippet of conversation seems to suggest follow-up topics; if the
> player explores those, he gradually covers all the important stuff that
> the author wanted him to know.
>
> Some of the conversation in Last Resort meets that description (I'm
> mostly thinking of the conversation with David), but a lot of it also
> feels more random-access-like: the player thinks of a bunch of different
> keywords based on other experiences in the game, but there isn't much
> flow from one conversation snippet to the next, and there aren't many
> hints leading into the important conversation topics.

Jim,

I agree with Emily on this one. I don't really care
for the menu driven conversational style that TADS makes available,
although it can be used to good effect (e.g. Inevitable). If you're
considering rewriting Last Resort in TADS 3 for this reason alone, I'd
implore you to reconsider.

I've recently finished Peter Nepstad's "The Ebb and Flow of the Tide." The
PC is extremely limited in options but Peter did a good job in dropping
nouns into the descriptions which clued me in to what to examine (smell,
taste, feel, listen to) next. Taking a similar approach with your NPC's
conversational scripts is all that's really needed.

You have a fun game with Last Resort and I enjoyed playing it. I'm
sonething of a horror movie buff and I don't believe that the plot
required a suspension of disbelief any more than some of the better
slasher pics out there.

I think that some of the tweaks suggested will raise it from "Good, but
flawed - worth playing" to "Great - don't miss this one."

My two cents....
--
Mike Harris
Austin TX


villagedweller

unread,
Dec 29, 2006, 1:03:00 AM12/29/06
to
Even without the herb puzzle, I think Lydia has plot value. She is a
previous victim, and has the ability to drive the narrative. She's also
a poor kid who got murdered, and I think it would be possible to bring
the player to the point where they WANT to give her a second chance,
and that would be reason enough to solve the "bring lydia back" puzzle.

But if you think she needs to have a larger role than that, then there
are several possibilities I could imagine. One is that instead of
hiding her from everyone, to let her roam about, allowing other NPCs to
react to this kid who looks an awful lot like...but, no, it couldn't
be.... Or you could also include a puzzle or two that requires people
working in concert--perhaps launching the boat, or distracting the dog
or another NPC?

TheR...@gmail.com

unread,
Dec 29, 2006, 4:24:57 PM12/29/06
to
> I don't really care for the menu driven conversational style that TADS makes available,
> although it can be used to good effect (e.g. Inevitable).

Um, perhaps I missed something here, but the "Inevitable" I played was
a ZCode game, and it didn't involve conversations. It had a
well-implemented "remember" system, but the game was pretty much
NPC-free for the most part...

I point this out only because of my voracious appetite for good IF (now
that I've gotten out of my old habit of only playing ZCode games) and I
wonder which one you're actually referring to.

Mike Harris

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Dec 29, 2006, 9:03:41 PM12/29/06
to

Whoops - you're correct. I'm relatively new to IF (within the last year
or so) - so I don't yet have much of a reference frame built up. Apologies
for misremembering; let me see if I can recall which game I was *actually*
thinking of.

In any case, I hope this does not invalidate my point - I have in fact
played TADS games that have menu driven conversations, and as a general
rule do not care for them.

Most recently I did play Peter Nepstad's "The Journey of the King," the
first of what appears to be a series of IF interpretations of the Lord
Dunsany tales. Although the conversations NPCs are menyu driven I
consider this a special case, working well to further the story.

TheR...@gmail.com

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Dec 30, 2006, 3:53:28 AM12/30/06
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Not a problem. "Inevitable" was a pretty damn memorable game;
thoroughly fair, very well-implemented, excellent story...the fact that
you get to save the girl who was destined to die was also a nice bonus
(something that also struck a positive chord in "Moments out of Time:
Adventure Type", regardless of its flaws, as well as "Glowgrass", from
which in retrospect MOOT borrowed unabashedly in its implementation).

Mike Harris

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Dec 30, 2006, 2:39:24 PM12/30/06
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On Sat, 30 Dec 2006 00:53:28 -0800, TheRyusui wrote:

> Not a problem. "Inevitable" was a pretty damn memorable game;

<snip>

So memorable, I'm remembering it when I mean an entirely different game,
apparently. <G>

TheR...@gmail.com

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Jan 1, 2007, 8:28:10 PM1/1/07
to
I just wish I had this many people backing me up when I took apart
MOOT: Adventure Type. It's like an early prototype of a really great
game: it has the *look* of a masterpiece, it has the *scope* of a
masterpiece, but it lacks the *polish* of a masterpiece. Implementation
bugs and oversights rear their heads at inopportune moments, several of
the puzzles suffer from obscure solutions (obtaining the access codes
to the two surviving VGLE units involves two different and completely
unrelated puzzles; maddeningly, one involves detecting fingerprints on
the keypad and assembling the marked numbers into a classic piece of
modern Internet terminology, something inexplicably not possible with
the other), and Julia isn't nearly as helpful as she should be. Her
interface is ripped almost directly from Arthur in The Journeyman
Project series, and I'm not entirely certain this is suitable for IF.
It should be possible to get Julia's input on certain specific
topics...

Anyway, it may be against my better judgment, but I think I will give
Last Resort a look after all. If I get stuck, I know exactly where to
turn. ^_^

Blank

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Jan 18, 2007, 11:17:57 AM1/18/07
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villagedweller wrote:

> But if you think she needs to have a larger role than that, then there
> are several possibilities I could imagine. One is that instead of
> hiding her from everyone, to let her roam about, allowing other NPCs to
> react to this kid who looks an awful lot like...but, no, it couldn't
> be.... Or you could also include a puzzle or two that requires people
> working in concert--perhaps launching the boat, or distracting the dog
> or another NPC?
>

cute ideas, but BloodyHellFire, what a lot of coding!

jz

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