Blue Lacuna — Ch. 6

What follows will be another snapshot of how Blue Lacuna is going, taken from what I assume is about the midpoint of the story. (I’ve only just gotten to the beginning of Chapter Six, though from conversation with other people I get the strong feeling that one person’s experience of a chapter may be quite different from someone else’s. So consider yourself warned that I may be spoiling things that will come later for other people; I have no way of knowing.)

It seems that I’m not leaving quite enough spoiler space at the beginning of these to completely thwart the RSS feed, so this time around I will muddle on rambling about nothing for several sentences of vacant content, even though there will be absolutely nothing of interest to read until after the break. For instance, here is another sentence containing nothing. Nothing to see here, move along, move along. Tra la la.

So, having gotten past the stage that was holding me up, I burst through onto a whole other side of the island, which provides me with lots to explore — though a suspicious number of the rooms are named In the Rain Forest and lead to one another in not-quite-intuitive ways. I am forced to map. This is, in my opinion, a bit of a setback: I dislike mapping IF and try to avoid it, and I find that this works for most games (even some rather large ones, like Anchorhead and Christminster, I played through without writing anything down).

The Myst-influence grows stronger and stronger, I find: we have competing influences leaving me sinister messages. I trust neither of them.

I continue to really like the scenery, and having now spent days on this island through many types of lighting and weather I have started to get a feel for it as a living place, in a way that most other IF environments don’t quite achieve.

Progue is mostly working for me too, which is to say, I generally find our interactions plausible, and he doesn’t feel entirely like a mechanism. He clearly has a wide range of things to say, but it helps that (a) he’s a bit crazy (always a good excuse for non-sequiturs and odd behavior) and (b) he’s enough of a hermit to close down conversations whenever he doesn’t feel like having them. This means that, although we have near-constant access to Progue, in practice our chances to talk with him are somewhat limited, and limitations are what make NPCs functional, as a rule. Give the player too much freedom and he’ll pick your game to shreds with his fingernails.

The gameplay flow is feeling a bit start-and-stop for my tastes, though. I think the drama manager needs more refinement, or else that perhaps I should have gone with the Puzzle version after all, or… I don’t know what. But I find that I spend quite a lot of my time wandering around waiting to find another place to sleep, or, when I have found such a place, waiting until it’s night time so I can lie down and have another dream.

All this feels curiously at odds with the prologue: Chapter 1 was something really different, in feel and direction, from old-style IF. There was an immediate source of narrative tension, there was a present and active NPC, there was a focused problem. If you chose to stay with Rume, there was some experimental and I thought at-least-mostly successful work to establish the two of you as people with a history. But from then on–

–well, since then it’s mostly been a very loving, carefully rendered, large, inventive exploration-story of a fairly standard shape. You find hidden writings and uncover lost memories, and the experience is more about what has happened than about what is happening. (See also: Stephen Bond’s gripe about backstory.) Not to say that that’s bad, but it’s not quite what I expected from the outset.

Thematically, I can see some cohesion. Do we create or do we maintain our relationships? Do we have to pick? (There’s nothing like a really all-absorbing creative project to make you focus on this question.) Nonetheless… hm. Well, we’ll see where it goes from here. I’m only half-way through, after all.

One or two minor kinks. When the tsunami came — what a frightening vision! — I scrambled up the rope vine to the high windsigh, and climbed into its branches, thinking this to be probably the highest ground I could reasonably reach. And then the ground cracked under my feet even though I was up in a tree, and there followed a sequence that did not entirely make sense, in which Progue saved my life and took me to higher ground (where, exactly? Not that I’m not grateful, mind you). A bug, I suppose, but one that cut in at an unfortunate moment for my sense of engagement in the story.

On the good side: the dream I had about the projector and the telephone and the windsigh trees creeping into the living room was perhaps the most effective yet. I am starting to fear those trees. Possibly going as crazy as Progue. And that’s a rather cool effect. I was reminded of Shade.

There is lots of effective imagery here in general, really.

10 thoughts on “Blue Lacuna — Ch. 6”

  1. In real life, if I found a chair surrounded by horribly menacing machinery all aimed at the head of the person sitting in the seat, would I sit down? I would not.

    Except I guess at the dentist’s.

    Carrying on.

  2. If you pay careful attention to the island descriptions, it seems to me that in spite of the tall tree that position is lower than both the mountaintop and the rim of the volcano. But then, we know Progue doesn’t go near the volcano these days, and it doesn’t make sense that he’d get up the mountain with you on such short notice. In my story, it was me that saved him from the tsunami, and just barely (no high ground was reached) so it made more sense.

    I’ve finished the game now. In some unusual ways, it reminded me of both “Passage” and “Gravitation” by Jason Rohrer.

  3. Yeah, I’m willing to buy that there were higher-up places on the island, but none of them were immediately reachable from where we were (it seemed like) — at least, during non-tsunami conditions I’m unable to move either direction along the saddle ridge. So that was a bit mysterious.

    Oh well. It’s not a huge deal, and I can see that the drama manager has a lot to contend with, in terms of generating events that make sense given the story state the player has managed to get into.

  4. Emily, I laughed out loud at your reaction to the chair. :)

    Progue rescuing you while you were at the top of the tree is definitely a bug. I can’t remember exactly what’s supposed to happen in that eventuality, but not that. Where were you sleeping the night the earthquake happened?

    There is a bit of a thematic disconnect between the adventure game aspects and the other elements, I admit. Essentially, this is because when I started the project I thought I was writing a fairly straightforward adventure game– much of chapters 2 through 7 (sans Progue and various other elements) come from this incarnation. The beginning and “third act” (which you’re rapidly approaching) are cut from a somewhat different mold. As more people finish the game it will be interested to hear reactions about how/whether this works.

  5. I was sleeping under that tree; then I woke up, found that something strange was going on with the tide so I couldn’t go straight down; climbed down the vine instead; found that all the water had been sucked from the lagoon; thought OH SHIT, and scrabbled back up the vine again as quickly as possible.

  6. “I burst through onto a whole other side of the island, which provides me with lots to explore — though a suspicious number of the rooms are named In the Rain Forest and lead to one another in not-quite-intuitive ways. I am forced to map.”

    This was my reaction too. I’d been wandering around happily without having to worry about how Room A connected to Room B, and then suddenly I was in this confusing part that made me pay attention to compass directions and write things down.

  7. Yeah. I don’t want to overstate this point, because in the face of the game’s general polish and ease of use it sounds like whining, but I felt a little betrayed at that moment. I’d been going along so happily with the helps the game provided and the sketch of the island to guide me that I expected the whole game would be possible to complete with no mapping or note-taking.

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