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.