Finding Martin-Why has this game become so obscure?

As I mentioned in my last post on Future Boy!, I was looking to play Finding Martin. I played it, and while I always get overwhelmed by vast games, I had a very favorable impression.

This game is very similar to Mulldoon Legacy, but not derivative of it. However, Mulldoon Legacy is 7 years older, and has 27 ratings, while Finding Martin had 1 rating until tonight.

Why did it get less coverage? Was something odd going on when it was released? It has a full walkthrough available on the author’s website (now archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20080516223332/http://www.qrivy.net/~gayla/fm_walk.txt). It was nominated for an XYZZY award. It just doesn’t make sense.

Especially because it does a couple of things so well: it handles time travel with multiple previous copies of yourself moving around; it has several coherent magic/tech systems, including one based on flavors; it has a strong plotline and strong puzzles, which is unusual; and it has a lot of in-game hint systems.

The main reason I could see it not being popular is player fatigue. I was following someone (maybe Peter P.?) who was playing through Mulldoon Legacy really eagerly, only to see them get worn down by huge swarms of puzzles. This game is pretty similar.

Anyways, I think a lot of these big puzzle fests need more recognition. Another one is Lydia’s Heart, which is a Lovecraftian game by a great author, and is about 2-3 times longer than Anchorhead, and much harder.

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Probably me, yes. I really loved it, and I did get worn down - not so much by puzzles, but by a handful of specific puzzles which taxed me unlike the rest of the game, puzzles which I wouldn’t have gotten on my own which made me turn to the walkthrough after days of beating my head against the wall.

I should say that those were a minority, though. On the whole, I rate Mulldoon Legacy very, very highly indeed, and enjoyed/solved large swatches of it even after consulting the walkthrough. And those who are wondering where Jon Ingold’s famous twists, turns and counfonding of player’s expectations are… should play the sequel. :slight_smile:

While we’re on the subject of gargantuan puzzlefests - Andy Phillips. I love the guy’s games. I especially love it that he became increasingly better as he went on, the puzzles became better designed and, in the end, a large part of Inside Woman is solvable without a walkthrough (though I gave up at/near the endgame, where the time limit kicked in).

It’s unlikely we’ll see another game of his, and that’s a real shame. Ah well - where’s Counterfeit Monkey?

I was very impressed how far you got in Mulldoon; I couldn’t even find the hidden passageway in the west hallway, which locked up a ton of the game for me. I didn’t really go back after starting to use the walkthrough.

Yeah, it’s funny - Mulldoon isn’t easy, but somehow it encouraged me to keep exploring. I often had an idea that didn’t pan out, but either the game had thought of it and blocked it gracefully, or… I don’t know, there are prohibitive and there are encouraging puzzle boxes, you know? Prohibitive puzzle boxes are either intimidating in their scope or just don’t allow much room for experimenting. The problem is this, the solution is that, everything else goes out the window.

Mulldoon I found very encouraging. There are alternate solutions to ensure you don’t get locked out. There are subtle hints everywhere. You are VERY encouraged to experiment with the items you have and the items you see around you.

It’s hard to define, sometimes a game just grabs you. Something about it clicks. That click marks the difference, it dictates how you proceed when you first get stuck - whether or not you want to invest time and effort in this thing. If you turn to the walkthrough and you find that the solution was actually within your grasp if you’d thought about it a while longer - and if you’d had that click before - then chances are you’ll turn back to the game with renewed vigour. You’ll trust the game a lot more, and you’re willing to go the distance.

When you go past the point of no return, the game is unlikely to disappoint unless it pulls of a few really unforgiving stunts. Which also happens, occasionally - I’m not particularly happy with the crossword, constellation and dog puzzles in Mulldoon. But hey - there was so much that I was very happy with already, so I just turned to the walkthrough for those (eventually) and continued on my merry way.

I had a similar experience with Jigsaw, but I ended up relying more heavily on the hints, especially in the Endgame. Still, the bits that I could and did solve on my own felt oh-so-incredibly-satisfying.

Same with Curses, except that Curses actively hates the player, provides too many chances for you to screw up without realising, and I get a really, really, really hard time motivating myself to play it…

EDIT - Waitwaitwaitwaitwait!

Getting past the west hallway?

NOW I remember how I solved it. It was a half-cheat. :slight_smile: Which I was not sorry for. iFrotz’s “autocomplete” helped me a lot. Mind, I was doing things correctly, and I was making progress, but as I was typing the command (it involves a codeword, or password, or whatever) that I thought would help, iFrotz autocompleted it - to a slightly different word than the one I was going to try! - and that’s how that puzzle got solved.

I’m not sorry, I’m really not! I hate combination-style puzzles because the answer can be frickin’ ANYTHING. But there you have it - on this particular puzzle, though I was on the right track, I had an unexpected nudge at the end that made all the difference. So if you want to, you can say I didn’t actually solve that puzzle 100%.

By the way, the author’s walkthrough for this game is up on ifdb. Also, their website (with many mini-walkthroughs and the overall storyline for those who don’t want to get through all the puzzles) is back up at http://www.gkwmusic.com/fm/home.html.

Hopefully, this will make the game a lot more accessible.

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My son had suggested to me that I try reading some IF because he remembered that I had liked playing Zork. So I read a few and then wrote “Finding Martin.” But I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I didn’t enter it into any competitions and was too shy to do much self-promotion within the community. The site with the walk-through was up for a few years and then down for several years until I recreated it recently on a new URL, although I understand that an archive of the walk-through remained available but may have been hard to find.

Sure is fun for me to think that it still gets some attention now and then. I had a great time writing it.

–Gayla K. Wennstrom

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That sounds cool!

I’m so glad you did. I love your game and always return. I will put a review up on ifdb. I suppose I’m a much part of the problem when it comes to formally recognising a games worth with a review and star rating which I’m slowly redressing.

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I have now bumped Finding Martin up to the top of my list. I’m playing Lost Islands of Akabaz now, and Martin is up next.

I completely agree with you on Lydia’s Heart. I was lost in it for weeks. Fantastic game. I have a review of it somewhere.

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Wow, thanks!

I’ve got a second game pretty much planned out but I haven’t started coding it yet. My daughter convinced me to write the story as a novel first, and (with her collaboration) that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve dawdled and postponed for far too long. But hopefully we’ll have a completed draft in a few months, and then I’ll get to code it as a game. Not sure whether to use TADS or maybe learn something new that could be played online.

It’s a strange process since the novel must be linear but the game should not be. Will I be able to resist the temptation to force the player along the linearity of the novel? Don’t know yet. But I know that I want the novel to be workable as a walkthrough.

Regards,
Gayla

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Hi Gayla,

Your process of writing a linear narrative and then converting it into a game - do you have any advice?

I have a WIP which is a folk tale. A bit like Dick Whittington. There’s loads of scope for divigation. How do you design a game which looks like it’s giving you choice but which keeps you on the arc of the story?

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It always takes me a few deep breaths and some time to get ready to dive into these massive games. It’s always a great immersive experience though, keeping me engaged for weeks sometimes. Like reading a brick-sized novel instead of a 2OO-page book.

This is a dangerous pitfall for games based on existing works. Since you’re writing the book yourself, maybe you could give the game a different angle? The events of the story as seen through the eyes of a side-character maybe? Much more freedom to let the protagonist wander away from the fixed storyline, as long as you keep her in the loop of events.

Of course, do whatever you feel is right. Just throwing two cents out there.

Good luck, enjoy your imagination, and if this game is going to be as big as Martin, I wish you the perseverance to see it through.

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I’d be glad to offer hints for Finding Martin via email if you or anyone else finds that convenient. Sometimes written walkthroughs are so spoilery. There’s an email address for me available at Finding Martin, or search Gayla Wennstrom on Facebook.

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I am right now at this moment putting the walkthrough available on IFDB in my Hints&Walkthroughs folder. I agree that full walkthroughs can be spoilery. They can also be too tempting.

I may well take you up on your offer to ask for hints. Via e-mail or on the Hint Request section of this forum. That way other players can benefit from them too.

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Fortunately the story was always intended to be a text game, so the novel was planned with many opportunities for the story to be non-linear. However, I think I will eventually tie up all the possible paths so they turn toward a single happy ending, ie. “winning” the game. The story is supposed to be whimsical, funny, and escapist – I don’t think I would want to change that for the sake of trying to make it into a perfect piece of I.F. art. (This comment refers to my planned IF “Periwinkle Park,” not to my completed IF “Finding Martin.”)

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Maybe someday someone will release a gamebook with an accompanying text game where both were needed to complete each other.

I’m sure Zarf once wrote about ‘Creature of Havoc’, a Fighting Fantasy gamebook that managed to have secret areas that weren’t accessible by making simple choices given in the text.

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See this thread, in which I admit that I don’t remember anything about the book but happily other people find the real links.

No advice except maybe to try to visualize possible branches and then pick one that seems the most entertaining to read. But it’s a tough challenge and perhaps not the right order in which to do things. We’ll see how it goes.

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An excellent game Gayla which I spent many months on. I even went as far as noting down every possible output from the Watch and the Screens; the attention to detail that you put into the coding was incredible. I remember I bogged down a lot when trying to match all the pairs of socks too. That particular problem was not to be sniffed at.

I await your new game with eagerness as and when available. Best of luck with it.

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