Duel postmortem


Duel was made over about eight months, starting in December 2014. An aggregate of reviews would read something like this:

[i]Duel is a short, weird puzzle-twine about a magical battle. The setting is recognisable fantasy, but it’s not derivative, and the writing is pretty decent in a school-of-Porp sort of way. The bit about the queen was good.

What works less well is the puzzle. Because the game requires extensive replaying, the text, once enjoyable, becomes a frustrating hazard to click through, which in turn means that new text doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That makes for an unhappy mismatch.[/i]

I think this review is basically fair. It is short, though the combinatoric aspect heightens that impression. And it’s obviously Porpentine fanfic - she’s my hero. But it’s the second paragraph that I wanted to talk about.

What I should have done with Duel is tracked restarts, and made the second/third/etc readthrough of text seen before not just visually greyer, but also shorter and more callous. That would have solved two problems - firstly, it would have reduced the frustration of the repeat-clicking a bit, and made newer text stand out. That in itself would be absolutely worth it. But, secondly, it could allow the game to be more didactic, in a subtle way, about what it was trying to say.

These two passages were as explicit as I wanted to get. They’re a lot more about other games, often offline, non-computerised ones, than they are about IF, which makes the game kind of a weird vessel for them. And I really didn’t want Duel to seem preachy, because that precise fantasy of worthiness-through-capacity-for-dispassion, the one that the game is kind of “about”, has been important to me always. It’s what I love, and where I feel safe.

(“she cuts through the oozing world like a white clear knife” etc etc)

I don’t think making that change would have made much difference to Duel’s score. It’s too personal, too self-indulgent a game for that, and though it might have turned the odd six into a seven, I think issues like “the game was basically unreadable on a phone” probably had more to do with its finish. But that solution is the main thing I’ve learned. I’m really really grateful to everyone who played it, and especially to everyone who reviewed it.

So in a way, are you talking about things like Shiva the summon in Final Fantasy? Or something completely different?

That’s kind of a perfect analogy, actually! I had to look up ‘Shiva the summon’ and the first match was a wikia page which did this exact thing.

This just doubled my appreciation for Duel.

I just wanted to say that I thought this game looked really cool, and I wish I had had time to play it and review it before the voting deadline. It was just one of those that was randomly at the end of my list.

I think Duel was the best choice-based game in the competition. And yes, I’ve played both Birdland and Scarlet Sails (and enjoyed both). Didn’t get Cape to work, though.

I was going to write a review of it in my thread in the author’s forum but never found the time and/or the right words. I hope you don’t mind if I try finding them here.
The few replays it took me to beat the game didn’t bother me at all. This was because this game uses its medium in the most effective way I have ever seen.

The game starts off with this overblown description to the effect that you (the player) drop the rest of the rope like a man’s heart, and that this has always been the best part for you.

At first, I thought: this is just an excuse for the Magic-the-gathering-like setup. So I started “fighting” my opponent with my memories. I didn’t think the cruelty of these to be of any importance until I discovered that the game is really about getting rid of your own champions to avoid their wreath should one of them remember what you did to gain their servitude. In fact, giving up such memories is what you yourself did, just to be part of this duel. And then the whole Idea hit home: This “duel” is the most frivolously thoughtless sport imaginable. And to be part of it is the height of debauchery. Of course this was clear on an abstract level from the beginning, but what the decision to train for years to be “worthy” for something like this really entails gradually becomes clearer only during several play-throughs. And then I re-read the start sequence, which I had impatiently clicked away at a few times already. The most enjoyable fantasy for the protagonist is to hold a man’s heart in his hands and let it drop.
In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece not in spite of, but due to, the need for repetetive play sessions.
Oh, and I thought the queen sequence actually had the weakest writing. Too explicit.

Is the game still up anywhere? I didn’t get to it in my comp judging, and am slowly working my way through the games I didn’t play during comp, but it doesn’t seem to be available.

I dunno how up-to-date it is or whether that matters, but all the games should still be downloadable here, separately or in one zip: ifarchive.giga.or.at/indexes/if- … n2015.html

It’s linked from the IF Comp 2015 page anyway, so I presume it’s a good link.

It’s on my collection too, though I haven’t synced it recently so it’s not online yet. Will be in a few days.

It hadn’t occurred to me to look for the archive – I was going from the results page to IFDB, where it isn’t available.

I just added links to the game and the walkthrough from the IFDB page.

Thank you very much for doing this!