Halloween Dance and its conversation system (postmortem)

I figured, like Catacalypto, I would do a postmortem for my ectocomp game.

This game was built around a new conversation system I’ve been contemplating for a while. I feel like it has a lot of advantages, and I’d like to see other people try to use it.

My new system makes topics into items listed in your inventory. Like the ASK/TELL system in many parser games, topics can be referred to by one or two words. Like menu-based systems, you can see exactly what you are going to say. For instance, in Halloween dance, your inventory can contain the following:

Conversation happens when you SAY a topic TO someone. Your topics list is dynamic. In conversation or during exploration, topics can appear or disappear. For instance, in Halloween Dance, when you SAY COMPLIMENT TO FRED, he asks you if you want a popsicle. You get a notification saying [New topics: Okay and Uhh]. Checking your inventory, you see:

This lets you answer Fred using OKAY or UHH. However, if you start talking about something else to Fred or Jane, these ‘response’ topics disappear. There are two types of topics in the game, semi-permanent that you carry around until used, and temporary ones like UHH and OKAY that decay quickly, allowing for a variety of conversations.

My main proposed benefits of this system are:

  1. It mimics the way parsers have always treated the physical world, limiting your interactivity to a few preset objects, where the objects are carried about in your inventory until needed and you must figure out what goes where. I also feel it models real conversation better; in real life, you often are thinking about a few specific topics during the day that you want to discuss with a variety of people.
  2. It gives you more direction than the ASK/TELL system, which often required you to guess the topic you needed, and whether to ask or tell. It is less restrictive than the menu system, because you have time to contemplate what you want to do next, and it allows you to plan conversations ahead of time.
  3. It lets you know what you will actually say. In the ASK/TELL method, you often will, for example, say ASK ABOUT PANCAKES or something when you want to buy a pancake, but your character will actually ask about the recipe.
  4. Finally, it is very easy to code. I did no coding at all on this idea before the comp. I was able to make the entire system from scratch, plus a game with a few endings, in 3 hours.

Anyways, I’d like to hear feedback from you guys about the game and system. While I have been making a big sales pitch, I realize that most ‘great new ideas’ in interactive fiction fizzle out.

Speaking of ideas that fizzle out, to show how this system works, I’d like to make a game based on the tall tales of the American West (Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, etc.) where you recreate all the classic parser puzzles with conversation puzzles (for instance, using items/topics in unexpected but very logical ways, learning how to manipulate a strange machine with voice commands, etc.)

Anyways, thanks for the Ectocomp everyone! I’ve had these ideas for a while, but I was scared to spend the time to implement them. Three hours seemed a lot more approachable.

(Note: I’ve attached the source text. For this quick game, I just hacked say/tell to give the item so people, as it had the most appropriate parser responses among standard actions.)
source.txt (14.6 KB)