Announce: Moonbase Indigo

As Emily said, I like this game and don’t want it to sink into obscurity; there was just one moment that made me flinch, and I wanted to record my reaction.

As for the notion of cute things becoming flinchy due to a change in perspective–well, sometimes that happens. To choose a hopefully less controversial example, there was a candy bar commercial featuring an American football player getting a sideline concussion exam and giving all the right answers until he’s asked his name, whereupon he say “I’m Batman” and starts running around like a nut. At the time I found it funny–but now that I know how many football players have had their lives ruined by repeated concussions, it makes me flinch. Especially because minimizing the severity issue was part of the issue; people would say “He got his bell rung” and send the injured player back out to play. Is the James Bond womanizer who won’t take no for an answer like that? I think yeah, kind of, just because it treats a real problem so lightheartedly like it wasn’t anything. It helps to normalize the conduct. Where running through a moonbase frying people with blasters is something that’s easier for me to laugh of as part of the genre, because it’s not like that helps normalize anything.

(I haven’t played the Kissing Bandit just because I don’t like downloading zipped-up comp files. There seems to be a Java version online but it’s not running on my computer right now.)

Thank you both for your thougthful replies. I had some time to think myself, as I read your replies some hours ago and was unable to respond immediately. I’m glad of that, because you both said things that helped me understand the issue better, even though I’m still sticking to my ideological guns.

Matt, your example of that commercial is a very good one. I don’t think I’d find it amusing, partly because I never enjoyed people-falling-down-and-getting-hurt comedy, but mostly because American football doesn’t mean a thing to me. But it means something to a large number of people, it’s cultural, and the injuries an American football player are not only well know, they’re something that’s instantly recognisable, which is what made the commercial work. And therefore I would say that it was a good commercial that did the right thing - it gave you all the references you needed and then gave you a punchline.

I said I’ve been thinking about it, and I guess my conclusion is that if these things weren’t going to make SOMEONE uncomfortable then they wouldn’t be funny, or exciting. I mean, a significan part of humour is the outrageous, the totally-out-of-place, sometimes even the offensive. Even as I’m writing this I’m thinking “Except for this and that and those, those guys really go too far”, and that’s my eye-opener - me thinking that someone goes too far and is too offensive or too cruel to be funny, how is that different from you both (and probably more people, including jrw by his admission) thinking that this scene in this game was a bit too close to something unsavoury? Or someone thinking that a certain game about two siblings is sexist? Not different at all, I concluded.

But, ah, as I said I’ll stick to my guns, if you don’t mind. A Bond-style character behaving in a Bond-(or secret-agent-spy-)fashion in a Bond-parody? I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some sexism involved. And I hope that authors and developers don’t start to remove certain things from their stories by fear of going too far. Emily, you spoke about some things that you wouldn’t do today, and that’s fair, but I’m glad you did them all back then - for one thing, if you hadn’t explored as much as you did back then, we wouldn’t have, say, Counterfeit Monkey today. Part of the process. If your process today is to be more cautious - that’s fine, obviously. If as an author you are also more sensitive to some issues in your work and in others - that is to be expected, and indeed shows a good and consistent author and person.

So, bottom line, if that’s ok, I’d say that the authors need to tell the stories they want to tell in the way they want to tell them, even if it means someone will be displeased about something - someone always is, there’s no getting around that, so isn’t it best just to trudge forward with what you want to do? And if no one got displeased or seriously worked up about something, wouldn’t that kinda mean the game ended up being rather lackluster, dull and uninteresting? I don’t think that art has to shock to be art, but I do think that art that doesn’t do a damn thing for you one way or another - lukewarm art - is just a waste of everyone’s time.

Matt, you may be able to access KB here: … authuser=0 … jFDUjlyQ2M

I informed this board about this collection quite a while ago. No one seemed to be in the least interested (I posted about it in every community, including Spanish, French and Italian and this board is the only one that got zero replies), but it’s still there. And sometimes it’s useful - like, this very exact moment.


PS - I, uh, guess this wasn’t just about MI, obviously. It’s been preying on my mind for quite a while now, and I’m very glad to have had the chance to set it at rest. Many thanks, both of you.

Oh that archive is great! Somehow I hadn’t realized that they were up as straight-up .z5s etc.; I thought it was one big zip or something like that, which I suppose was a silly thing to think. That would suit my needs perfectly… if wasn’t down right now. But when it comes back up it should be suitable for lots of diving into files that are zipped up on the archive. Bookmarked.

I don’t think I was clear about the Batman commercial. It wasn’t supposed to be anything edgy or disturbing, which is what makes it disturbing in retrospect. An almost literal Funny Aneurysm Moment. The makers of the commercial thought of that kind of injury as one that would just clear up in a few minutes, but now we know it can affect people for the rest of their lives.

As for the Bond-like, I can laugh off the sexism–I’m not like, “Hey, this doesn’t pass the Bechdel test!”–it’s that one particular issue around consent that makes me flinch. I don’t think we need to worry about censorship in this case, but anyway, sometimes sensitivity means removing something because you decide it goes too far. But authors can’t make decisions about what to do if they don’t get our honest feedback, you know?

Thanks for the discussion here.

Would we feel differently about this, I wonder, if KISS were not the solution in the walkthrough? That is, it remained available, but not recommended as the default solution?

Not for me–I hadn’t actually looked at the walkthrough at that point. It was really her response that made me flinch.

Fair enough.

IF amuse-bouche.

IF hors-d’oeuvre.

IF dessert.

I suppose I should have dinner.

Maybe “short-subject IF”?

I feel like the issue isn’t so much “this IF is short” but “this IF is rapidly paced and plot-centric” – short scenes, diverse kinds of action, lots of transitions, not much that you would identify as a serious puzzle; on the other hand there’s just enough there to make you think briefly about what your next move should be, so it feels very different from a choice-based implementation of the same story.

In a lot of ways this is the diametric opposite of the systematic mechanic idea I’m always rattling on about, because there’s no one thing that you really do multiple times here and there’s no systems mastery at all. Instead every action gets its importance entirely from the context you’re currently in. Swerving left or right matters during the ski scene but would be meaningless at the baccarat table; dealing cards is good for baccarat but pointless when you’re aboard an evil space shuttle; etc. And I really enjoy this sensation, but I feel like it would be so so easy to screw up: if you are just a bit less good than Rob at cluing the player about possible actions via the text, then the whole thing turns into a massive Guess What The Author Was Thinking exercise and becomes zero fun at all.

(Classy, fun, flamboyant, really easy to mess up: clearly it’s soufflé IF.)

In a way this reminds me of videogames where the controls are heavily contextual–the X button means “grab” or “vault” or “mourn” or whatever depending on what appropriate object is around. I’ve only heard about these games because I don’t have a console (I guess One-Button Bob is a flash game I’ve played that’s a bit like that).

Hmm. Quick-Time IF? Seems like it might also capture the “easy to do badly” aspect of it (though the most notorious examples in consoles seem to involve games leading the players around by the nose rather than the reverse; you may have thought I was joking about “mourn”).

Yeah – the QTE effect. It’s basically choice-based gameplay in a more video game-y space.

Moonbase Indigo feels quite a bit different, though, just because you do have to keep coming up with what that correct move would be, over and over, and get that little hit of satisfaction when you’ve figured it correctly, or apprehension that you might not. I was pretty relieved that I managed to fire off Chas’s device for surviving the fall; I really thought for a moment I was going to crash and have to undo a few times, there.

But yeah, the high-context point is relevant.

I did crash and undo there. (“i” is a lot more helpful than “x suit.”)

In a way it reminds me more of Dragon’s Lair and some Dragon’s Lair-likes than the QTE-fests (I’m basically relying on your Heavy Rain review); instead of being choice-y you have to come up with the right thing to do, most of the time.

You’re right about how it feels different, though. I think part of it is that parser IF is just much better suited for this kind of thing; with the QTEs there’s not much mystery about what to do–press X–and it seems like most of the time the game does pop something up to tell you what actions are available. (Are there any QTE games that don’t do that–like you point your camera at a rock and it lights up red and you know that if you press X you will jump up on the rock, but it doesn’t say “Jump up on the rock?” Was Mirror’s Edge kind of like that?) Whereas here, even when it’s pretty clear what you’re supposed to do, you type a different verb every time. And that leaves open more ways to hint the action, too.

I haven’t played Mirror’s Edge, but at that point what you’re describing is more of an actual mechanic, not QTE territory any more: it’s the equivalent of a USE verb, or point-and-click in a 2D graphical adventure. And there are indeed plenty of games where some scene basically boils down to “identify the useful object in this environment” – I spent I don’t know how much time prodding around environments in LA Noire looking for evidence-objects. And there are various stealth games where the most sensible thing to do is identify that one barrel of explosives that you can shoot right before the guard walks in front of it.

Taleslinger should join this conversation. His “Bedtime Stories” and some of his “Alex and Paul” games have that same feeling - some highly-contextualised actions and an overall feel of a plot speeding along, and when it all goes right - when the game manages to get you in the correct mindset to type the correct command even as you’re thinking “This is crazy, there’s no way this is the correct command” - it’s very fluid. I’ve come to recognise that in his style, and found it quite unique - meaning I seem to have overlooked JRW. Ah well.

Also, I don’t suppose calling it Speed IF and calling SpeedIF comp games SpeedIF would make a difference? Probably not.

Interesting! I haven’t tried the “Alex and Paul” games; I should give them a shot.

Fair warning, the first few games are relatively traditional (as far as this conversation goes). Bedtime Stories is more obvious; in A&P the cinematic, go-along-with-the-ride moments are mostly moments rather than the ambitious whole-game thing JRW built here. Just so you don’t play them and think “What was he on about? These games are nothing like what we were talking about!”.

EDIT - Oh, that’s right, the “officially released” BS was more of a beta and is hard to find now. Well, it’s in my collection, if you follow the link above and want to check it out.

I just started playing the game. Interestingly enough, I realised quite by accident that I was talking my way out of the “kiss woman” predicament - it just never occurred to me to take that route; even if it were a film, I thought it much more natural to talk it out.

Anyway, that’s not the reason I’m posting. I thought I was in a game-stopping bug because, whatever happened, after I exhausted the conversation options, if I went down the hill, she shot me. Even if I disarmed her and then went down the hill, she still shot me.

Then I checked the walkthrough. Here’s the thing - I’d never thought about turning around. I’d conducted the whole conversation facing forward, not looking at the woman, and it played very, very naturally… except that without turning around she always shot me. And after telling her about the mission and pretty much saying “We work together or we keep out of one another’s way”, it seemed - again - the most natural thing in the world to just buzz off downhill. Which would have worked, had I turned around. Which I never thought to do, and which was never really prompted, I don’t think.

(EDIT - And I just remembered that every time I tried to “x woman”, Bon- er, Baxton tried to turn around and she wouldn’t let him)

For what it’s worth. It’s just one of those things, as has been commented on - when this sort of thing works it’s magic, when it doesn’t… well, then it doesn’t.