IF Competition Discussion: Fox, Fowl, and Feed

As before: a short description first; then spoiler space; then final comment.

From the title, you can probably guess what Fox, Fowl, and Feed is about. You are not wrong. The results are polished and they have a certain charm — and there is slightly more to the piece than just that old chestnut of a conundrum to which everyone already knows the answer — but essentially, it is what the title says.









I found this pretty well implemented, though I kept trying to tie the rope to the duck and getting told the duck wasn’t something I could tie, rather than that I needed to unfasten the rope from the boat first. A clean-up of that last puzzle would be nice. Most of the rest I found intuitive and sensibly coded, though: I had no trouble working out what to do about the fox, or about the sack with the hole in it, and the verbs all worked right.

In sum, this is cute and pleasant and, and, and have we no ambition? I mean, c’mon. I’m fine with having some competition games that are short, polished 10-20 minute pieces. If they all take two hours to play, that’s a lot of comp game time to get through, even when the list is 29 instead of 50 as it has been in some years. However, that doesn’t mean you get a complete pass on having to think of a starting premise. This conundrum is as old as the hills, and has appeared (unfortunately) in several IF games before, alongside such classics as “use a 3-cup measure and a 5-cup measure to get 4 cups of this liquid” and “do this 15 puzzle” and “solve the tower of hanoi, picking up each disk with your teeth.”

Bah. The other problem with these kinds of puzzles (while I’m on the rant) is that they’re all things whose solution is an algorithm, a description of a whole procedure that you have to follow. That means that once you’ve worked out *how* to do the thing, you are then stuck with repetitive work to carry it out. Now, in this particular game, that is mitigated by the fact that each stage involves a secondary and actually new puzzle. But still. I would be just as happy to see cup puzzles, sheep-on-a-narrow-mountain-pass puzzles, fox-duck-corn puzzles, hanoi puzzles, and all their relatives consigned to the same dusty Never Use This Again bin currently occupied by hunger puzzles and mazes.

Now I feel guilty, because the game played like the author had had fun writing it, and it was well put together, and all that. However. Next time, that care and effort deserve to be spent on a cooler idea.

6 thoughts on “IF Competition Discussion: Fox, Fowl, and Feed”

  1. Just finished this one, and it turns out that it’s not necessary to do things in the walkthrough’s way (I didn’t realize this until I checked the hints afterwards). I… uh, are spoilers okay down here in the comments section?

  2. Well, after failing to get the duck across, instead of molesting the sack (which never really occurred to me), I stuck the fox in my jumpsuit right there, placed the sack of grain in the boat (to hide it from the duck), swam across, dropped off the fox, and swam back to row the grain sack across. I honestly thought I’d found the “legit” solution to the problem, and was happy with the game for making me break the old paradigm; then I got the “duck is tired of all the back and forth travel” message and later read the walkthrough, and realized that I’d inadvertently exploited a bug.

    At least, I’m pretty sure I did. I’d have to go back and check to see if the “tired of back and forth travel” message happens even when you haven’t yet moved the duck across the river. Maybe the message becomes “the duck has fallen in love with the van and won’t stay in the boat,” although I doubt it.

  3. Golly. I think I would have liked the game better if I’d gotten that nonstandard solution to the puzzle; though I worry that the jumpsuit-trapped fox might drown during swimming.

    I suppose that’s why the backstroke was invented.

  4. Yeah okay so I just went ahead and checked. No, the duck “gets tired” of the back-and-forth travel even when it’s not involved with the back-and-forth travel.

    Bah. I like my solution better.

    Has anybody implemented this puzzle like this yet:

    You’re at the shore of a river. A boat is docked here. There is a sack of feed, a fox, and a duck here.

    > get all

    Fox: taken.
    Duck: taken.
    Sack of Feed: taken.
    Boat: taken.

    > x boat

    It’s about the size of a goldfish bowl.
    The fox speaks: “My goodness, this looks like a fine day for a swim!” He leaps out of your arms and commences dog-paddling expertly.
    The boat starts eying the duck hungrily. The duck glares at the boat and growls.


  5. Nice game with a few little issues (did anybody else try dropping the rope while you were in the boat and it was tied to scenery?) I too felt that it wasn’t very ambitious, but the writing was cute (O. MacDonald at Haddafarm) and I never needed a walkthrough to get through it. Basically, it felt like a nice snack-sized puzzle game, but in need of just a bit more polish.

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