Was forced by circumstance to take a break for a few days, but am now back with more musings on Aaron Reed’s Blue Lacuna. Spoilers follow the break; I’m partway through chapter four, but not to the end of it. Feeling a little bit stuck at the moment.
For various reasons, use of ALL is not allowed in Blue Lacuna. Please deal with objects one at a time instead.
The notable thing here is not the message. The notable thing is that I didn’t reach this message until chapter four.
In some ways the interaction in Blue Lacuna is reasonably conventional, but in others Aaron has clearly gone to some trouble to shift the player’s expectations. There are relatively few objects to pick up and carry around; even after all this time I have only three items in inventory, and one of them is the suit of clothes with which I started my journey.
The use of highlighted keywords also helps control player expectations. While there are certainly a number of scenery items that aren’t highlighted but do have descriptions, the presence of the highlighted words directs the player’s attention to important stuff and perhaps decreases the amount of contact with the boundaries of the world (though at the expense of making the exploration feel a bit more guided than usual). That said, I think that’s not inappropriate given the size of the game.
(Bronze does something similar by highlighting important visible objects when it’s in novice mode. I don’t have much data on whether this was in fact helpful to any novices, if any novices played Bronze.)
There are other points where the game just doesn’t bother to simulate things because they’re not really that important. You can get rained on, or swim out into the ocean, but there is no detailed system (as far as I can see, anyway) to calculate whether your clothes are wet or dry at the moment. In context, that seems completely fine. There’s a lot that becomes possible when the only other person around is a madman, and you don’t have to deal with social repercussions for doing odd things. (Someone complained in City of Secrets that I underimplemented the bathing facilities, in the sense that it doesn’t let you get in with your clothes on, or fool around in the water. That’s so, but my brain quailed at the massive effort that would have gone into coding appropriate responses for the player wandering around and meeting dozens of NPCs in wet clothing, and everything that could happen if you got into the shower with various items in inventory, all to serve a moment of fooling around on the player’s part that had no bearing on the story. BL goes a different route by letting you swim around but having your state of dryness just not be important, and you aren’t allowed to carry around objects that are likely to be damaged this way.)
Very occasionally, I do still run into a jarring bit, like:
>drink the seawater
It’s just part of the scenery.
Well, all right, fair enough, but it seems like a fairly major and important part of the scenery, and I’d sort of half expected a retort about the folly of drinking saltwater to quench one’s thirst. Especially given that I’m allowed to go around tasting all kinds of other plausibly-edible things. (Fortunately for me, most foodlike objects are apparently not poisonous.)
Speaking of which, I really like bits like this:
You crack one of the fruits open with little effort, revealing a firm pink-white pulp and some gooey clear liquid inside.
The pulp is delicious, with a flavor redolent of peppermint and sea salt, and the liquid is warm and nutty.
There’s a sense of the world being deeply explorable, just for fun, that reminds me of Worlds Apart. Have also tried eating: the berries on the bushes on the slopes of the volcano; windsigh leaves; the mussels. Unfortunately I have not been able to catch any of the fish. It occurs to me that if I were a Wayfarer in real life, I would probably bring along with my clothes some minor provisions, just in case: solar blanket, basic first aid kit, water, emergency food… as if I were going on a strenuous hike. But there is probably no point in putting this kind of thing into the game if it would serve no story purpose, and I kind of like the spareness of the design.
(Also, Aaron, if you’re reading this, good move releasing a game about warm sunny beaches in the middle of winter. I think part of the appeal is mentally projecting myself into an environment that isn’t covered in ice.)
All this is a good thing, because this:
You’re not sure what to do next, but otherwise you’re doing all right.
is all too true. I think later in the day I’m supposed to have a meeting to chat with Progue about his past life now he’s learned who he really is, but what am I meant to do until then? I’ve explored everywhere I think I can get to; there’s obviously a meadow east of the windsigh tree, but I can’t get past the vegetation to reach it. There are no obvious outstanding solvable puzzles (though clearly at some point I need to get to the pyramid while it’s still powered, as opposed to via cable car).
At the same time, the game keeps telling me I’m “too keyed up” to wait around, or sleep. So, er…?
My attempt to seduce Progue didn’t work out either. Though his reaction was amusing.
I guess I just keep wandering about.