Saturday, September 6, 2014

Devil in the Details, by Jerry Ford

It's good to have a TADS game, and it's good to have a Trizbort map, too. The subject matter is interesting, as well.

But I found this game somewhat tough to get through. Part of this was due to the disambiguation problems (e.g. between the matrix of 300a, 300b and 300c, and the slot, door and doorbell,) and part was that--well, some of the details were devilish. So much so that I was reminded of the Terrible Trivium from the Phantom Tollbooth instead of the Devil him/her/itself. It took a while to SEARCH LEFT FLAP (I tried to open the flaps on my cargo shorts) to get going, and this cost time and effort.

The game picks up after that. The action at the bus stop is rather good. But it seems like an awful lot of detail is added to places that don't need it, maybe as an artifact of remembering what adventure games were like, or of not realizing the pitfalls players unfamiliar with the game can look into.

This game quite simply made it too difficult to do the necessary things to get it going in places. I know that, when I started, I expected I had to do this sort of thing, too. But I don't. Perhaps it would have been easier to go with, say, a multiple choice menu, or even to ASK LUCY ABOUT (whatever). I took several tries to get where I could take the bus, and while part of that was due to impatience before a deadline, the introduction to a game should be smooth, even if it discusses bumpy issues or plot.

That said, the major bugs can be fixed, and the writing and planning show enough talent that I believe the author can do this. Even if I can only read the walkthrough-flyby, I'm interested, darn it. I have the feeling the author made certain parts more difficult than they needed to be out of obligation to standards they guessed were the case and weren't sure why (from playing really old text adventures,) and not because they were trying to frustrate the player. It's a matter of finding ways to push the moral dilemmas you really want to discuss to the forefront. So, yeah, re-read the player's bill of rights and also maybe see Aaron Reed's Inform 7 book (even if you're a TADS programmer) or at least his Sand-Dancer code, which is understandable even without Inform knowledge, and that'll help a lot.

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