Kerkerkruip Revisited

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I last played Kerkerkruip when it was an entrant in IF Comp 2011. At the time, I was sort of luke-warm on it: it’s a roguelike game done as IF, which is very different from most of the competition it was up against, and I found it distracting to have success and failure messages (with die roll information) mingled in with more descriptive handling of character behavior.

The game has been the subject of considerable work and improvement since then, however. It now boasts one of the most complex UIs implemented in Glulx, including several cute startup animations, an illustrated screen, a handsome graphical map that can be brought up on demand, and (in the main gameplay window) several side panels providing constant status report information.

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The result is still quite spare, admittedly, but having all this information laid out made it much easier this time around for me to understand the world state and play effectively.

In addition, the gameplay has been refined, with more monsters and weapons, a reduction in the randomness of the experience, and more tactical elements.

There’s still a great deal to learn. Playing Kerkerkruip effectively means balancing a lot of possibilities and outcomes in one’s mind: if I use this ment now, will I be without it at a more crucial time later? In which order should I try to kill my enemies? Is it worth trying to kill this high-level creature even though that will strip away the powers I’ve absorbed from other creatures? Coming to any conclusion about the best course of action requires the player to get familiar with the gamespace, to have a rough idea of the potential size of the dungeon and the number of creatures likely to be in it.

To make that startup experience easier, Kerkerkruip puts your first playthrough in “apprentice” “novice” mode: I was able to win on my first try, which boosted my confidence and gave me a clearer sense of what was going on when it came to subsequent, more challenging runthroughs. (All of which I immediately failed at. But hey.)

All of which is to say: I really recommend trying this thing if you haven’t. It pushes in interesting ways on the boundaries of what IF normally does, by having large elements of randomness and systematic play. It is one of the few IF games to make a serious shot at interesting combat that is not puzzle-based, and it shows off UI effects that most Glulx games never attempt.

It also yields some surprisingly entertaining moments that capitalize on the juxtaposition of procedurally generated situations with narrative text — for instance, I was being attacked by four enemies and thought my goose was probably cooked, but then I sprouted four tentacles from my torso, my enemies went mad and started licking their own weapons, and I was able to clean up.

Version 9 is now available in beta form and feels pretty solid to me: it adds a menu soundtrack, new enemies, and other goodies to the experience. And in the meantime if you want to follow development, Kerkerkruip has just gotten a new blog.

9 thoughts on “Kerkerkruip Revisited”

  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Emily! Just to clear up one potential confusion for new players: the difficulty level you start out with is actually called “Novice”. Later games will start out at “Apprentice” or higher, depending on the previous few games you’ve played.

  2. As someone who anticipates the 7 Day Roguelike comp with nearly as much excitement as the IF Comp, I’m very glad (and rather fascinated) that this project is gaining in complexity and depth of replay.

    I’ve long thought there’s some great potential in bridging the gap between the IF and RL communities. Though there are many parallels – similar old-school vintage, freeware is the norm, both have mixes of small, experimental works and large, ambitious ones, and both mediums undergoing mini-renaissances in design and accessibility – the two communities still are often at cross-purposes in terms of game design: tactics vs. narrative. Yet attention narrative is something that keeps popping up in roguelikes more and more; perhaps they have a lot to gain from looking at the work of IF writers.
    Recommendation: the Roguelike Radio podcast is a reliable source of thought-provoking discussion on game design (as well as game *making*, which is a bit of a different thing). This particular episode, on the study and real-world use of game design elements like procedural generation, is fascinating and may be of particular interest.

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