Jammin’

by tommy.rousse

Last frame in No Sugar, No Cream

The deadline for the Game Jam was an hour ago.  We’re gonna start presenting games pretty soon.  My text adventure is nowhere near finished, but I learned a bunch of Inform 7 and I got to see how the game-sausage is made.  I’ve had a ton of fun out here in the beautiful Danish countryside, too.

More exciting news– my main dude & partner-in-crime Andrew “Killa” Miller finished up the long-awaited 31st page of No Sugar, No Cream.  It’s been a while since an update, but Andrew (he does the illustrations, I write the words) is a PRINCETON GRADUATE STUDENT IN ENGLISH these days so his schedule is kinda tight.

That last frame up there, finding our hero John Folk on the verge of passing out via the poison dart of a mystery assailant, is also the starting point for the text adventure I’m working on.  The idea is that the player will be able to explore Folk’s subconscious, and I’ll have an opportunity to explain things about the world he inhabits and build up his character.  Lots of exposition is tough for the action format I’m shooting for– basically, every page ends on some kind of cliffhanger, and most of the time there’s some violence.  Since it’s not happening in the real world, I handily side-step the thorny issue of maintaining continuity between an interactive fiction and a comic with a set storyline.

Noir is a pretty popular genre of text adventure (insofar as text adventures may be described as “popular”), but I think mine is going to be a lot different than most.  For one, I don’t really like traditional text adventures.  Most of the classics really bored the hell out of me when I was a kid– to be fair, I concede to hating puzzles of all types and genres, which really sucks for someone who’s future law school is determined by the “logic games” section of the LSAT.  I’m more interested in keeping up Folk’s first-person narration and giving the player meaningful choices dictated by the personality of the character and making the consequences of those choices funny as hell and pretty surprising.  I want to let the player choose, but not give him/her total agency over the character’s personality or execution of his/her choices.

The only text adventures I really love are the ones in Space Rangers II: Rise of the Dominators— they were poorly translasted, totally bizarre, and dedicated to allowing players to do interesting things rather than guess what the designer wants them to do.  A game about flying through space, adventuring, pirating, and maybe saving the universe, Space Rangers II did a great job of using lots of different gameplay styles to expand what the player was capable of doing.  Most of the game in a 4x format, interspersed with RTS-lite gameplay.  But those genres are kind of limited, so what do you do if you want to let the players experience something that doesn’t fit?  Say you also happen to be a Russian developer on a limited budget.  Throw some text adventures in there, and you can do whatever you want for cheap.  Plus, the players get to use their imagination.  Through the text adventuers, you could get arrested, go to prison, and then escape from prison by winning a roach-racing contest.  There were murder mysteries and opportunities to explore weird alien cultures. You could also get stranded on a planet with no money or ship and take up a new career as a trucker to make enough money to get back to Space Rangerin’.

Anyway, it’s time to find out what everyone’s been working on!  I’ll report back after the Exile Game Jam presentation.