text adventure

Owlor's picture

Because You're Mine - Post Mortem


Alright, I submitted a game to Ectocomp, an annual competition for interactive fiction made in under three hours (they also have a category without a time-limit.) And I decided to take the opportunity to submit something written in Inform7, cus I should be able to learn a whole system in 3 hours, right? (Spoilers follow below.)

I'll be putting examples of from my source in quotes like this.

Now, I didn't include the hours I spent browsing through the documentation, only the actual writing process. I'm gonna talk a little bit about what went right and what went wrong from the perspective of a larval parser game-writer.

"Because you're mine" was named after a line in the song "I put a spell on you" by Jay Hawkins. The theme of the comp is Halloween and it's one of the classic Halloween anthems. I was also inspired about old novelty songs by Marie Laveau. Y'know, she's an important religious figure, but in pop culture she mainly survives as a jilted sorceress, pop culture is seldom fair. There's also a bit of Zecora in there; the main character could probably be described as "Zecora, if the ponies were right." Oh, and they are also a Horse.

I should probably explain about that. Most of my text adventures take place in a fictional universe of my own devising that's a spin on the MLP-universe. I thought about justifying it by invoking the Houyhnhnms of Gulliver’s Travels, explaining to anyone who wants to listen that it's actually a brilliant Swiftean satire of... but nope, it's ponies. It's not just Ponyville in disguise though, even if people might be thrown off due to their association with brightness and pastel colors.

One of the things that's struck me about MLP:FiM in particular is how the pony society is portrayed, intentionally or not, as kind of a lacuna of stability in a world that's otherwise inexplicable and terrifying. And that's the aspect I've tried to amplify for my own universe, bringing in influences from HP Lovecraft, Sunless Sea and Ursula le Guin. In my world, this stability is something that's constantly having its edges chewed on by forces both outside and inside.

In this game, you actually play as one of those destabilizing forces, a spurned sorcerer who is trying to perform a ritual to ensnare their lover. Right away, it establishes itself as one of THOSE games; the first sentence includes a piece of jargon: "Rootwork", and there's plenty more made-up Fantasy-concepts, with that one being one of the more comprehensible. (Rootwork is basically voodoo, at least for the purpose of this story.)

In order to not leave people completely in the dust, I included in the inventory a book that when examined turns out to be an encyclopedia.


The description of the book is "An encyclopedia. You can consult the book about unfamiliar concepts. A few pages are bookmarked: Intimidation, Singing, Vatch and Rootwork."

Apart from explaining important jargon (Rootwork, Vatch), I used the encyclopedia to introduce two of the custom verbs: Intimidate and Sing. Intimidation was, if I get to say so myself, a fantastic idea and all games with a villain protagonist should have it.

The supply shop is west of the shore. "The supply shop is fuzzy and damp. The exit is east." The small horse is a woman in the supply shop. "It is staffed by a small Horse sitting in a cardboard box."

Crow's feet is a thing in the supply shop. " Rows of Crow's Feet line the walls."

Instead of taking the Crow's feet, say "'Hey!' the tiny shopkeeper says in an annoyingly shrill voice. 'This is a barter system. You need to give me something in return.'"

instead of giving [thing] to [someone]: say "You couldn't care less about the barter system."

intimidating is an action applying to one visible thing.

Understand "Intimidate [someone]"as intimidating.

understand "steal [thing]" as taking.

After intimidating the small Horse:
now the player is carrying Crow's feet;
say "You give the small Horse a glare and she's reduced to cowering in the cardboard box in terror.

'T-take anything you need!' she stammers from behind the cardboard armor.

You take the Crow's feet, which is what you need to enter the swamp."

This "puzzle" is probably my favorite part of the game, as it introduces the social mores of this place and then requires the player to break them. It helps communicating what kind of person we're dealing with here, one that doesn't even consider regards for others an option. I would've really liked to do more with the whole "intimidation"-thing, I especially like the idea of it being a double-edged sword, giving you stuff but increasing the fear and persecution directed towards them.

Instead of going to the swamp when the player is not carrying the Crow's feet: end the story saying "You sink down to your knees in the swamp, then your stomach. Soon, the filthy swampwater is up to your neck. You are completely and utterly stuck and will continue to sink to your death unless anyone finds you and helps you up, which won't happen. Frankly, if somehorse saw you sink, they'd probably just watch your head disappear under the surface and stay until they were certain you were dead."

The most interesting part about having a villain protagonist was showing their loneliness. People hate and fear them... for a good reason, but this doesn't make their alienation less palpable.

Your lover is a man. Your lover is in the quaint drinking establishment. "Your lover sits by a table, chuckling slightly to himself. Your eyes narrow as you gaze upon this worthless lout. He doesn't appear to have noticed you."

After talking to your lover, say "'You!' he exclaims 'l-look, I can explain, I didn't mean to...' he doesn't finish the sentence and turns his head away.

'It's just... you scare me,' he finishes."

After intimidating your lover, say "Your lover trembles at the mere sight of you."

The scene with “your lover” helps hammer the point home that you are doing a bad bad thing, and that you have no time for subtlety; you just take what you can get. If I had more time, I would've liked a more elegant puzzle here. It's not the worst puzzle in the game, though, that honor goes to the Mandrake Root puzzle.

The gallows tree is north of the swamp. "It is called a gallows tree because it is the right shape and size for it, but the Horses of Creola does not actually hang criminals. Much easier to send them out into the bog and watch as they slowly sink to the bottom."

The corpse is a thing in the gallows tree. "There appears to be a corpse hanging from the tree anyway, so someone hanged someone at least, probably themselves."

The description of the corpse is "It's been hanging here for some time; it looks almost mummified."

Instead of taking the corpse, say "You have no particular use for this corpse."

An underside called under#corpse is part of the corpse.

The mandrake root is a thing in under#corpse. The description of the mandrake root is "It is a root that looks like a face twisted into a constant scream."

In Zork, there's an infamous puzzle that requires knowledge of baseball most Americans don't have, let alone people from other parts of the world that doesn't really play baseball. This puzzle is my Baseball-Diamond puzzle: it requires the player to know something about Mandrake roots that I don't think most people know, and that frankly would increase the ESRB-rating if it was ever articulated anywhere.

I thought about mentioning it in the book, but I liked having it be unstated and something the player either knows or only realizes in retrospect, but I should've put some sort of hint when searching the corpse that “look under” is implemented. (I'm using the extension Underside by Eric Eve.)

Corpsekissing is an action applying to one thing. Understand "kiss [thing]" as corpsekissing.

after corpsekissing, say "You reserve your affection for your lover. And corpses."

Now, this is my favorite part. As a standard, kissing in inform only applies to inanimate objects, but your character in this game has... particular interests that requires a slightly different behavior. I have no idea if anyone ever discovered it; there's no hint anywhere that you can do it, but if anyone tries kissing the corpse, they are in for a surprise...

There's this particular feeling when you look at your code and realize you just implemented necrophilia, somewhere between accomplishment and shame... oh, who are we kidding? I have no shame.

After taking inventory:
if the player is carrying a mandrake root and the player is carrying a Briefling's wing and the player is carrying a strand of hair, end the story finally saying "You cut the mandrake root up, put the hair and the wings inside and then sew it shut. If everything goes to plan, tomorrow he'll be yours."

The ending is a bit sudden and abrupt, and require you to bring up your inventory, which prolly isn't very good design. I've certainly never heard about another game where you take inventory and then you win.

Overall though, I am really happy about it as a first attempt to write a parser game. The results of the comp is still pending, but I hope it will stand up against more experienced IF-writers.

Healy's picture

The Star Festival, and other Winter Excitements

Hey guys! It's been a while. I sorta lost my game-making mojo this month, but I still managed to finish up a pretty short Knytt Stories level. It's called The Star Festival, and it's about a Yuletide Knytt festival suspiciously similar to Christmas. It was originally made for a level competition on the Nifflas forums, but I ran way late with it. No screenshots because I'm feeling lazy.

ALSO: I submitted a game to the 7th Annual New Years Mini-comp, called You Have to Put the Baby New Year in the Champagne Bottle. It's pretty much what you would expect. Hope to see you guys again soon!

Healy's picture

You Have to Put the Post in the Forum: A new SoftSoft game

noun_in_noun cover.png

I made this game to celebrate my 1,000th post on some message board I frequent too much. It's basically just a dumb in-joke, but maybe you guys will like it as well?

Healy's picture

You Have to Put the Candy Cane in the Stocking: A Christmas game

Merry Christmas, everyone! As a sort of Christmas present to you all, I'd like to share a Christmas-themed trainwreck with you all. It's yet another variation on You Have to Put the Ball in the Cup, only this time, you have to put a candy cane in a stocking. Very different. Anyway it's a text adventure/interactive fiction game so you'll need an interpreter to play blah blah blah. I think most of you know how these things work by now so I'll spare you the details.

(Also if you are looking for a sincere Christmas game instead of a joke one, I made this thingy a couple years back.)

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