Hinterlands: Marooned! Autopsy

Hinterlands: Marooned! is my second Inform 7 project (following the Locked Door “series”) as well as my second game in the Hinterlands setting (following the RPG Hinterlands: Pilgrimage).

The concept of Marooned! was inspired by the wanton player death in classic Sierra On-Line graphical adventure games (the Quest For Glory series being a particular favorite) with some influence from the interactive fiction Ecdysis. The format was based on a variety of one-room or one-turn text adventures such as Aisle, Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die, and Conan Kill Everything (there are direct references to the first two of these in the game; did you spot them?). The setting owes a debt to the work of comic artist Moebius, and the game’s tentacular antagonist is plundered from the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. The underlying philosophy is half-digested Camus at best, and some sort of fatalism or determinism at worst; but mostly it’s a dumb joke game where there’s no way to win but plenty of ways to die horribly.

I understood from the outset that I would be making a game that probably wouldn’t be very well liked, as there’s not much to it and what is there has more than a whiff of trollishness about it. The main objectives were to learn more about Inform 7, finish a project within a deadline, and to amuse myself (as, realistically, no one person will ever spend more time playing this game than I have).

With the central premise in place (interact with the monster and die), the main challenge was to implement as many verbs as I could think of and have responses for applying them to every noun mentioned in the game. To get started, I opened up walkthroughs of other one-turn games and worked my way down the list of things that were possible in them; then I added on anything else I could think of. I had no idea how long this would end up taking, and I’m afraid many of the deaths turned out too similar to each other as a result (I could tell the deaths were getting less creative the longer I spent on them). When I thought I was done with the game I passed it off to @Jade, @Edo, and @jrknoch, who (bless them for their patience) found all sorts of errors and typed all manner of things into the parser that would have never otherwise occurred to me to implement. Rinse and repeat. A few typos slipped through the cracks regardless, which I still intend to fix.

The cover art comes from this game’s precursor Pilgrimage. It’s the sprite for an enemy called the Tentaculon. I originally intended to carry this name over into Marooned!, but then I discovered there’s already a Twine game called Tentaculon (which I have not played). So I did what any self-respecting fantasy/sci-fi author would do: I put an apostrophe in the middle of a bunch of consonants and called it a day. And so the Q’udzlth was born.

So, what does it all mean? Well… We’re stranded on a rock in space, and death is inescapable; but at least we can boogie down or frolic in the waves a little bit before we inevitably get turned into mulch. Also it’s a dumb joke game where you die a lot.