Ask Ryan

Thanks again! This game has me totally hooked and has so many cool surprises.

I totally understand your answer for 2 - the game is so much bigger than it first appears… I think if I knew there were, say, 12 or 24 badges (Ryan, WHICH is it?), it wouldn’t have quite the same mystique…

I’m with you on 1 and 3. I do think this is an appealing way to handle saving - it wouldn’t work for every kind of game, but it’s pleasant as a player to be able to bookmark a website and just turn up. Novice question: would clearing the cache on my browser affect this? Do you get data on when and where the players are playing from?

The time controls chill out a player in the early stages knowing that they can pick things up the next day and something helpful might have turned up. Deep into the game now, I’m now maddeningly hooked knowing that I might get an extra opportunity tomorrow, or tomorrow, or tomorrow… This is fly fishing as slot machine - variable reward is going to keep me casting my line - nicely done!

Have any other games followed this route of having different days / different events linked to real world data etc?

This seems a great way to create more of a live event around a game - for example, a game that had to be played over a week with different stages unlocking each day…

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Would clearing the cache on my browser affect this?

Clearing your cache won’t affect your save data. The data goes to Local Storage, which, I probably shouldn’t speak too much on this because I will end up being wrong about something.

Anyway, you don’t have to worry about your save data going away unless you delete it yourself, or something drastic happens to your browser. My ancient save data, untouched for maybe a year, is still there. Let’s see how many badges I have…

…Wow! That’s a lot of badges!

Do you get data on when and where the players are playing from?

Just a little. I try not to worry about it too much (to make up for past time I spent worrying about it too much).

Have any other games followed this route of having different days / different events linked to real world data etc?

Not that I know of in the IF space, but of course outside that space there is Animal Crossing, which Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing is essentially a huge ripoff of.

This seems a great way to create more of a live event around a game - for example, a game that had to be played over a week with different stages unlocking each day…

This is an excellent idea, and one that I am working on even right at this very moment. I hope you will look forward to Ryan Veeder’s Bram Stoker’s The Dracula Files, which will take place later this year if all goes well.

dracula files cover

Thank you for your questions.

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(cries in Zoolander)

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Exciting news - thanks for moving forward on my idea so quickly! :wink:

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First of all, thank you very much for your thoughtful and well-articulated reply. I’ve had some time since I’ve absorbed it (and the podcast extrasode) and I’ve been reflecting…

I suspect one of the reasons you’re experimenting with unannounced date-locked content is to foil efforts at strip-mining a game of all its endings, collectibles, and Easter eggs. It’s a big ask for walkthrough writers to spend 365 days in game to catch any and all date and time variants. Since some of these variants may only be visible to players who have met certain preconditions, even this approach won’t produce an exhaustive list.

Also, the exclusive hosting of both Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing and Ryan Veeder’s Bram Stoker’s The Dracula Files, beyond driving traffic to your website and preventing the proliferation of disparate versions of the same game, helps discourage folks from decompiling the game. Not as simple as downloading the readily available game files for a title such as Tales from Castle Balderstone. I can imagine there are still ways for a determined and unscrupulous individual to get their hands on the source code, but you already have a counter to that.

This would be the custom save structure that allows the addition of new content while preserving the functionality of existing players’ save files. This is another way to combat any inclination to post the super-duper-Ryan-Veeder’s-game-walkthrough. Even if the most insanely determined individual actually managed to catalogue and expose every caveat of the game, a simple content update would render that walkthrough incomplete and out-of-date. They can’t even name the walkthrough as the complete walkthrough of a previous version of the game, because the only version that exists anywhere at any time is the most current one on your website.

These are all shifts away from earlier games like Taco Fiction and Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder. This can’t be the whole picture, and I suspect you have a few more tricks up your sleeve that you aren’t sharing to preserve this sense of discovery for as many of your players as possible for as long as possible. Although, what you have already done will likely be sufficient on its own. Regardless, you have me considering this problem in a new light and I have some ideas of my own.

Thank you again,
-Pinkunz

I’m sorry to write a whole post that’s just correcting you, but since this is the Ask Ryan thread I think I should clarify some things. And I’m sure everybody will be fascinated to read my further thoughts on this subject. We can even construe your post as a series of questions, if we append “, am I right?” to certain key sentences.

And so I will answer those questions.

One of the reasons you’re experimenting with unannounced date-locked content is to foil efforts at strip-mining a game of all its endings, collectibles, and Easter eggs, right?

I don’t think this is exactly my reasoning, at least not consciously or directly. The main reason is kind of adjacent to or upstream from my feelings about that completionist attitude: I feel like I’ve written a lot of games that you can finish in 60 or 30 minutes and then forget about. So in recent years I’ve been trying to create longer-lasting experiences that lend themselves to a longer arc of emotional investment. (Put another way, I want to remake Animal Crossing.) But maybe this is all a different way to say what you’ve just said. So, yes, you’re right.

The exclusive hosting of both Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing and Ryan Veeder’s Bram Stoker’s The Dracula Files , beyond driving traffic to your website and preventing the proliferation of disparate versions of the same game, helps discourage folks from decompiling the game, right?

The hosting thing is really more about the specific requirements of the games in question than anything else. If I could make RVAFF (or, more recently and more intractably, Even Some More Tales from Castle Balderstone) work properly offline, I would make them downloadable.

Unfortunately I don’t think their position as browser games makes them all that much more difficult to decompile.

You could update an online-only game to render people’s walkthroughs incomplete, right?

That would be so mean! And so much work!

I guess if someone really did post a complete walkthrough that exposed every single secret and fun thing in RVAFF, I’d feel justified in adding some more material just for the sake of creating more discoveries, if I had time. (Although I could just do that whenever I wanted, if I had time.) But nobody is out there writing walkthroughs of my games that spoil 100% of the secrets, which is nice.

I was just reminded of this PDF.

As opposed as I am in principle to behaviors like decompiling and over-walkthroughing, in practice I can only expend so much time and energy to discourage them. I kind of have to decide on a secret-by-secret basis what level of obfuscation is justified in a given situation. Sometimes I just have to tell myself I’m okay with people choosing to ruin things for themselves.

(If you’re reading this and you have a tendency to decompile games I made just because you got stuck: Please cut that out. Just ask me for help. I clearly have plenty of free time.)

But, I think I already said something like this, for the core concept of a project I’m passionate about, I’m willing to expend any amount of time or energy. And maybe I’m attracted to concepts that imply an amount of unspoilableness. So, yes, you’re right.

Thank you for your… Oh. Hmm.

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Thank you for the response and given that my post was fishing for that response, we can call them implied questions if you prefer. I should have included an, “Am I remotely correct in any of this?” or something of the sort towards the end. I’ll be sure to pick my words more carefully going forward.

I suppose I should speak up a little since it’s well known that I am one of those rapscallions that create overly-verbose walkthroughs that spoil everything. This post will be a bit rambly; apologies in advance.

I do sometimes use unsavory black magic to learn a few things dishonestly instead of by honest normal play. I do try to play by the rules at the start, but sometimes there’s no walkthrough for me to use when I get stuck in a game that’s ten years old, and the author isn’t around anywhere and I don’t like being stuck.

Even so, black magic may tell me only that certain objects and places exist and tell me nothing how to reach them, that I’ve missed content and should play more. But yes, maybe I should reach out to authors more directly when I get stuck in a game. I did have to ask zarf for a hint on Hadean Lands when I first played it, so it is a tool I can use.

For the record, all my playing of Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing was honest playing and I never even attempted to decompile that game. I’m not sure I’d know how, although I know it is possible. I have not crafted an exhaustive walkthrough for RVAFF mostly because I’d have to replay the entire thing from scratch, possibly more than once, to do it justice. Meanwhile, you’re all missing out on my darling map of it.

It has been very helpful to have club wooby around to know which content I should not blab about. Also, sometimes I don’t spill secrets because I have NOT learned them in the first place. I’m not superhuman, y’know. I half expect that there’s some sort metapuzzle in Ryan’s games and the only reason I haven’t found it yet is because I haven’t played all of them yet to see how they all fit together. But that’s just speculation.

It is not unheard of for authors of standard IF to issue a version 2 of their games, making my walkthroughs of version 1 no longer quite valid. A game doesn’t have to be an online one to frustrate my efforts. Authors can still change their games.

Games can also seem to disappear from the web, making my freshly made walkthrough somewhat moot. If there’s some general concern that I have it too easy, trust me, it’s not always the case.

So far, only one author has ever asked me not to write a walkthrough for their game, and that once was because the game was part of a contest, and they didn’t want a walkthrough to be available then. But that was a temporary injunction, and I believe they’d be quite happy to see a walkthrough at this late date.

Writing walkthroughs takes time, especially the sorts of walkthroughs I make. Just sayin’. Some walkthroughs-in-progress are over ten years old themselves, waiting for me to finish writing them.

Also, if someday I do publish an exhaustive walkthrough for Orchid Species of the Erastian, which is entirely possible, I would be thrilled to have it invalidated by new content.

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I always enjoy reading David’s walkthroughs for my games and I don’t think they spoil everything. (Maybe he thinks they spoil everything! Hee hee hee!) I think they do a good job giving a complete account of the critical path and letting the mysterious stuff remain mysterious.

For the record, I have nothing to hold against David except maybe his bringing up Orchid Species of the Erastian just now, which I was kind of hoping everyone would quietly forget about.

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Oh wait, there was one sneaky thing I did regarding Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing. I was curious how the browser side graphics matched up with the game regarding the weather. I didn’t understand how the game told the browser which graphic to use, but a teensy weensy peek behind a curtain revealed how that trick was managed. Very clever.

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Ryan,

Last night I was rereading a popular IF author’s Patreon posts and saw a call for annotations requests that hadn’t gotten much response when it was first posted. I put in a request and went to bed, only to see that you’d confirmed my nomination on Twitter by the time I’d woken up! Thank you!

This was a lovely surprise, but more than that, the speedy reaction reminded me almost of a public forum or Q&A situation, which reminded me of this thread, which then reminded me that I forgot to ever ask you about your use of planners!! I bet if I used planners, I wouldn’t forget about stuff like this, but they don’t make intuitive sense to me yet. I know some people use them in particular ways—I think there was a C.G.P. Grey video on the subject once—but I was curious if you had a specific approach to using a planner you could share. And if not, that’s fine too.

I never asked this because I wanted to pair it with a question about one of your games, and I didn’t have one of those ready then. I do now: the turn-based combat system in “Winter Storm Draco” is impressive, reminding me of things like Soul Calibur, Bushido Blade, and similar fighting games. Were there particular inspirations you drew from? Things to reconsider if you try revisiting an approach like this?

Thanks again, and please do not feel any urgency to reply immediately. I just wanted to get it down before I forgot again.

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ON THE SUBJECT OF PLANNERS

I remember they issued us day planners in middle school and high school, and I hated them. What business did the System have telling me how to organize my life? Why should I write down my assignments and keep track of when they’re due? So I can be a cog in your machine? Are we not men?

So I was really down on the idea of planners for many years. But at some point I got busy enough, or worried enough about certain deadlines, that I was compelled to start recording my plans in a planner-like format. I think this change in my thinking had partly to do with finding a notebook that I thought was really cool. It was important for me to use a planner my way, without some dumb institution forcing it on me. ARE WE NOT MEN?

My thought process probably went something like this: “There are sixty rooms in this game. The game needs to be finished by December 31st. So, I need to complete 1.3333 rooms per day.” This is such a dumb way to set goals, but I do it all the time. Then I’d write in my cool notebook:

WED NOV 16
I - _ room 1A
    _ room 1B
H - _ get haircut
T - _ write round 1

where “I” stands for “interactive fiction” and “H” stands for “hair” and “T” stands for “trivia.” I have a rotating cast of task-categories with different abbreviations. I’d put a big line underneath this, to delineate what part of this notebook page was reserved for November 16. And then I would check things off as I accomplished them. It was basically just a daily checklist, and I rarely “planned” more than a day or two in advance.

The cool thing about setting tiny goals and writing them down like this is, if you happen to also finish rooms 1C and 1D and 2A on the same day, you get to scribble those in the November 16 space and have a physical record of how impressively productive you were that day.

As I got more confident with this I started writing out my little checklists further and further in advance. But never too far in advance. I try not to stress myself out.

The format of a planner page changed a lot over the years, but at some point I settled on this setup that I consider very cool:

In the top left quadrant I write my longer-term goals for that week. (That’s not the correct week number by most standards…) Sometimes these goals need to be adjusted in the middle of the week, but there’s plenty of room for corrections like that.

Let me try and reduce all that to some actual advice:

  • Do your planning on YOUR OWN TERMS. Are we not men? This probably means using a notebook that wasn’t laid out as a day planner by the manufacturer, but in that case, maybe you now have a use for a very cool notebook that you bought years ago and never wrote in because you were afraid of ruining it.

    • If you have more than one notebook like this, it’s okay to be paralyzed by indecision for a while as you consider which notebook deserves to be your day planner. Use a paper napkin as a temporary planner, and write down a checklist dated three days from now that just says “_ CHOOSE A NOTEBOOK.” (Choose the cheaper one.)
  • Don’t feel like a whole page in your planner should correspond to a single day of your life. If you are like most people, then a single day of your life is almost never interesting or complicated enough to take up a whole page. Maybe try and fit as many days as you can on one page until you find out a layout that works for you.

    • That might sound like a really useless piece of advice, but I think this consideration has some nontrivial psychological effects.
  • People talk a lot about “setting realistic goals,” but whenever I can I try to set very, very modest goals. Tiny stupid goals for idiots, or babies. This is probably one of those Habits of Highly Effective People that Language Arts teacher tried to drill into us. She’s the one who gave us those planners! Oh, how I despise her.

ON THE SUBJECT OF THAT COMBAT SYSTEM

The combat system you mention is referred to internally as “Ryan Veeder’s Perfect Combat.” It was used again in The Roscovian Palladium. I had planned to use the ATTACK system for the scene in question, but I found out ATTACK wasn’t being maintained except in accessory to Kerkerkruip. (This was in 2013 or 2014 or something.) I was too lazy to prune ATTACK down to the specific mechanics I needed, so I rolled my own (kind of overcomplicated) system.

The core idea of Perfect Combat is that the enemy uses an attack, you pick a reaction, and then I check a table to see how well your reaction works against that attack. This ends up having some limitations:

  • The puzzle of figuring out what reaction to pick doesn’t seem to lend itself to being used in multiple battles throughout a longer combat-intensive game. I guess I can see how it’s possible to build it out into a bigger idea but it would require some cleverness.
  • The system would have a lot of trouble incorporating normal RPG combat mechanics like variable equipment or leveling up. You kind of have to write a completely new table of results for every possible variation on a combat scenario. In The Roscovian Palladium, the combat scenario has two variations for two equippable weapons, and that was plenty of work.
  • Since you’re always reacting, the player character is functionally always on the defensive, which has storytelling implications. The scenes where I’ve used Perfect Combat are both underdog situations. It doesn’t lend itself to power fantasies, or even stories where the PC is supposed to grow more confident over time.

All that being said, I think the system works well for the places where I used it. Although I may have talked myself out of ever using it again just now…

I can’t think of any specific inspirations it grew out of. I haven’t played Soul Calibur or Bushido Blade. Maybe the parrying idea came from Wii Fit or something? The tug-of-war conceit really seems like it came from somewhere, too… but it’s been such a long time, I don’t remember. I do remember designing around the idea of fencing-type battle, as opposed to most styles of RPG combat where you take a turn and then I take a turn and our swords never clang against each other.

Not that there’s anything wrong with conventional RPG combat! I just wanted this particular part of this particular game to have a certain feel to it. The feel of a one-on-one duel with weapons clanging against each other. After I’d implemented this system, I think I designed The Roscovian Palladium with the existing system in mind, but I implemented combat completely differently in Mud Warriors, and completely differently again (and much more robustly) in The Little Match Girl 3. Oh, and there was that Castle Balderstone story with the vampires! That one wasn’t very robust. But it was fun.

I guess I just have fun designing combat systems. I like to think I’ve designed systems that pair well with their games, though. In retrospect, “Perfect Combat” may not be a perfect name, because it is only perfect for certain types of scenes.

In most of the games where I’ve used combat, I was more or less serving a desire to make something similar to a graphical RPG or an action movie. As I worked on The Little Match Girl 3, I started to see how IF has the potential to depict combat in its own unique way. I think there’s a lot of space to be explored, both mechanically and storytellingly.

So I’ll probably write more games with fights, but I’ll probably be trying out new mechanics as I go along. If anyone wants to use or adapt any of the combat systems I’ve put together before, they should feel free to ask me about it.

Thank you for your questions.

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Another great post for a bookmark. Thank you!

Maybe you could compile this into a book?

Thanks, I’m working on a game that will eventually have fight mechanics and I really could use these ideas.

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Sorry that this isn’t a question for Ryan. Also, sorry I’m going to move something someone put in spoilers out of spoilerdom. But it’s not very spoilery, and was too hard to keep it in those blurry things, especially with a link –

This talk of Bushido Blade sent me back to a long (unfavourable) review of this PS1 game I wrote back in 2003. I was pleasantly surprised to find I still like the review. If you want to learn about Bushido Blade, have at it: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/ps/196844-bushido-blade/reviews/49970

-Wade

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(Thanks for linking the review, Wade! You’ve raised some excellent points. I will attest, however, that if one can experience the franchise starting with the second game, thus avoiding the vagaries of the bushido code, and if one can stick to the multiplayer mode, cutting out the story and providing more experienced players with whom to discuss the execution of swordfighting techniques, one can bypass many of the pitfalls you identified. If your life is cut short and you find you’ve respawned prior to your previous engagement with the series, try applying this technique.)

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If you think any of this material is worth preserving or making easier to find, I think IFWiki would be a great place for it. There could be a category! There could be a central page with like a table of contents and links to all the questions and answers!

But I couldn’t add any of this to IFWiki myself, of course. That would be very gauche.

Thank you for your question.

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IMHO, not allowing participants/members to add pages is a weakness of the IFWiki.

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Oh my gosh I had no idea. That is some nonsense.

Well, anyone should feel free to start up the AskRyanWiki. I couldn’t do that myself, of course. The notion is unthinkably presumptuous.

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Collaboration is kind of the purpose of many wikis… Think Wikpedia.

Sorry if I offended. I value your opinion.