Exploring the 'Best Games': Blue Lacuna, by Aaron Reed

(As a first note, I’ve heard the author is on the job market. I would recommend him to any employer; if you want another sample of his work, try the excellent Hollywood Visionary)

Blue Lacuna is a massive game finished (I believe) as a doctoral dissertation. It was intended to be the largest parser game ever, if I recall, and it certainly has few contenders. The only games with similar amounts of content that I know of are the time travel puzzler Finding Martin and the Anne McAffrey-like World’s Apart, but Blue Lacuna most likely contains more content in its branches than those.

This is a game that tries to be everything to all people. It is a simulationist game, with weather, day/night, and nature modeled in a detailed way. It is a giant puzzler, with old chestnuts like color-coded machines and combinations locks. But it’s also made friendly for newcomers, with a Twine-like keyword system, puzzles that are all optional, easy navigation, elimination of the compass, and helpful tips when errors are made. It is also a conversation game with over 1000 topics. It is also an epic sci fi story.

How well does it succeed? A game of this scope, written by one author, will inevitably fall short in some areas. There are several bugs in the game, such as disappearing NPCS, but none that really halted gameplay for me. I found the opening dull, and that the game picked up a lot more in the later half, which was very well-done and exciting. I felt like the pacing didn’t mesh with my general rushed attitude toward games.

Overall, though, there is no way to deny the importance of this game. Blue Lacuna has been influential l, and playing it is a real epic experience. I love been downloading and playing most Best Games the day I write the essays but I knew this one would be a beast, so I downloaded it a week ago and have been working since. I felt a real accomplishment finishing it.

What does it do right?

==Depth==

The game is as deep as it is long. The author has streamlined the game by removing inventory in general, and focusing on looking, walking, and manipulating some machinery. In thatbscope, everything is extensively detailed. Room descriptions are always changing based on time of day weather events, past game events, etc.

A remarkable landmark system is used to travel. Movement felt quite natural, and Go To was implemented for people and things.

The PC has 1200+ topics, stat tracking, independent behavior, etc. Most app4oaches to interaction with him are considered and accounted for.

All of this depth is much harder to accomplish in such a long game.

==Strong NPC==

The main NPC does what you’d want NPCs to do. They come up with plans, and execute them. They change in mood over the course of a conversation. They have long term memory. They can be funny, sad, happy, or crazy. They have a big story arc. In many ways they are the protagonist of the game.

This is one of the most detailed NPCS in any game.

==Setting==

Blue Lacuna has great world building, but the best parts take some time to get to. The game express3s itself through dreams and visions, nature, and machinery. It is a very Myst-like environment, but with the addition of the big NPC.

The two factions, Heart and City are well-done each with their pros and cons. I definitely support heart more, but city makes sense, too. The biology of technology are interesting as well.

In many ways, Blue Lacuna reminded me of a world’s Apart another epic sci fi game set on an island withwarring factions that appear to the PC in dreams. Both do an excellent job of world building.

==Conclusion==

Blue Lacuna has a rightful place in the list of Best Games. It is not perfect, and no one will be satisfied with all of it, but there’s so much good here that everyone will like part of it. The extreme depth and well-done NPC are it’s main attraction, together with the storyline that slowly unfolds.

I really like the idea of warring factions that appear to the PC in dreams. Imma have to steal that for a game sometimes, only with Horses. :stuck_out_tongue: