Thaumistry (Bob Bates)

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I recently wrote about Bob Bates’ commercial parser IF game Thaumistry for PC Gamer. Bob was kind enough to speak with me about the project for context.

A couple of other observations came up in that conversation with Bob that couldn’t go into the PC Gamer article because they involved spoilers or too much detail about parser IF implementation, but I thought I’d discuss them briefly here.

I’ll do the spoilery bits last, with additional warning, for those who might not have played the game but intend to do so in the future.

Other references.

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IF for the hard-casual gamer?

Lately I’ve run across the term “hardcasual” or “hard-casual” to mean a game that appeals to a gamer’s sensibilities (rich and original game-play, not just another match-3 or time management clone) but offers the accessibility and limited commitment of a casual game. [1] [2] [3] [4].

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Assorted News

There is indeed an IF Art Show again this year; deadline, May 2.

Play This Thing! is reviewing Photopia (not my review, this time, but I thought people might be interested).

Jeff Nyman has another interesting post on his IF classes, this time on why his next class will be using TADS 3 rather than Inform 7.

Grandtextauto points to Hypertextopia, a program especially for the creation of “axial” hypertexts — there’s one main line of narrative to follow, with what might be considered footnotes, expansions, or embellishments. I wasn’t thrilled with the couple of examples I briefly looked at, but it represents a possibly-interesting alternative take on how hypertext design might be done.

Emergent Puzzle Solutions

A recent RAIF thread brought up the Magnetic Scrolls games, and the fact that they used a simulationist system that could produce puzzle solutions that the game authors hadn’t thought of:

“Talk of current IF development drifted on to whether it’s possible to create a game in which the player is not really constrained by the author’s intentions. Michael noted that Magnetic Scrolls games were kind of like this-for example, if an object had the “sharp shards” bit set, dropping or throwing the object would cause it to shatter into many sharp shards. In total, 128 bits were used to describe a more or less working universe that the player could interact with in ways that hadn’t been anticipated. As an example, Michael described an unintentional situation in which one could put a rat in some liquid nitrogen, snap off its tail and, for a few turns, use the tail to puncture feed sacks and obtain food.”

This raised a fair amount of interest (most of the “ZOMG that would be GREAT!!” kind). This yearning to do something the author didn’t think of is something I hear a fair amount of: Mark Bernstein has complained that, because IF games anticipate solutions, the IF player is always robbed of the pleasure of having invented a novel solution because he always knows the author was there first. Emergent-solution design might address that complaint. It might also address the frustration players often feel when a logical-seeming approach is either forbidden or not recognized by the game at all.

So I found myself thinking, again, about why more IF games don’t work this way.

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