Some initial reactions to just the beginning of Aaron Reed’s “Blue Lacuna” — cut for very mild spoilers.
Have now played Chapter One twice. This isn’t because I needed to, or because I wanted to go back to the beginning; it’s purely because my computer crashed after the first run-through and I had to start over.
The first chapter feels definitely like prologue; there are a lot of choices to be made, even down to the gender and sexuality of the player. I’m often skeptical of this technique (especially in a narrative-heavy work) because it makes me wonder whether the player character is going to be adequately characterized. So far, though, it’s working for me: I completely buy my PC as a female and her lover as a male. I’d like to come back and try some other options, but it may be telling that, even though I had the chance to try a different direction the second time through, I didn’t: I felt enough affinity for the character I had created that I wanted to see the rest of the game through her eyes, even if later I come back to explore the ramifications of being male, or gay, or making different choices about the significance of my relationship.
I’m impressed with the novice help. It feels smooth — exceptionally so. I’m not sure I would like the highlighted keywords in all circumstances, but they work here because the world is so obviously not restricted to these things, and I can, if I like, also examine and touch and manipulate other objects. There are just a few points where a command does something quite unexpected and puts too much event into a simple command: I was able to eat a whole meal just by examining the jerky in my cupboard, for instance. But mostly I am finding so far that this works, and that it provides a sense of constant forward movement to the story.
I was wary when reading that Blue Lacuna draws a lot of inspiration from Myst, because while I thought Myst was awesome and Riven even awesomer, I never thought they were very good as stories. Too much simple good/bad characterization, too much melodrama, too many symmetries required by the game design and making no narrative sense. I haven’t gotten nearly far enough in Blue Lacuna to tell what kind of influence these sources had.
Most of all, this project just feels different from the vast majority of IF, because even within the first chapter it has the shape of the beginning of a big story. And that’s hugely exciting.
I’m really looking forward to seeing where Blue Lacuna goes from here.