Sunday, October 18, 2009

[IF Competition] Star Hunter

Here is spoiler space for the spoiler space. I'm going to answer a trivia question that I asked in the last spoiler space, so if you don't to know it, read that entry first! You know, I'll write the name in reverse, so your eyes won't betray you.

Right. The music of rerheL moT was among the first English-language music I listened to and loved--I suppose that my parents must have told me the general meaning, but most of the songs I only slowly figured out as I got older. An early favourite (undoubtedly because of the low language barrier) was The Elements, which I learnt by heart when I was nine or ten. Yes, I know that is nerdy. Okay, very nerdy. And yes, I still know it. "There's antimony, arsenic, ..."

And while we're on the topic: it occurred to me that mister rerheL's Silent E in combination with the central puzzle mechanic of one the games in this competition (and preferably some nice illustrations) would make a great educational piece of children's IF.

Okay, on to Star Hunter.

I'm not rating this game, since I stopped after a few minutes. Chris, you have made a huge game--I can see that from the walkthrough. But it doesn't work, because it doesn't get the player interested. This is a shame, because you've evidently put a lot of work into this piece, and if you had spent that effort a bit differently, it would have been much better.

You need to give the player more information. There are machines everywhere around us--what do they do? Surely the protagonist knows what they are for--its her own ship! So just tell us, and we'll feel much less abandoned to the unknown.

Implement objects. If I examine something that is described in the room description, it should be implemented and tell me something interesting. These are alien planets! They are supposed to be cool. So make them cool and fun to explore.

Also, please never forget to implement a non-standard description of the protagonist. Every IF-player will type "x me" in the first two turns, and groan when it says "As good-looking as ever."

If you want bonus points with me, implement a non-standard response to "sing". It is what I try in every game. (I have a WIP in which I spent an hour implementing "sing". And it's not about singing! Okay, that's useless, but still, a protagonist who sings a Laibach version of Barbie Girl is so much more fun than a protagonist who just sings abominably.)

Basically, the recipe is this: SHORT + DENSE + POLISHED > LONG + SPARSE + UNPOLISHED. A short game with a lot of possibilities for exploration and interaction is much more fun than a long game with sparse implementation. So redirect some of your effort to fleshing out the world and giving the player more direction (and getting beta-testers?), and your next game will be much better.

I can even imagine a future version of Star Hunter with more implementation and direction being quite favourably received.

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