Now that all is said and done, I’m happy to say I’ve had my dalliance with parsers and will be retreating to Twine for the foreseeable future.
Plagued with an inauspicious start, including a “trouble playing” thread on Day One due to a uktextadventures server overload and multiple failures to launch on desktop despite all the testing beforehand, I feel the parser format lends itself more toward confusion and frustration than anything else.
Case in point, there is apparently no way to program in enough permutations of verb and object (dozens, at key points, for single actions) to cover all that will be attempted. This leads to player frustration. In addition, no amount of signposting will account for a perceived lack of clues, which may be themselves hidden behind asking an NPC or elsewhere in the game. This leads to player confusion.
It’s not all bad; a few people quite liked it. But many of the issues involving glitches, memory overloads (?) and my own failings in programming meant many did not have much of an experience with it at all beyond vexation. I must also admit that staging a long adventure as I have done consistently seems to be the wrong strategy for getting people to play it. Most people (myself included) play shorter games first to get a feel for a broad range of them, saving longer adventures for last. Perhaps fatigue sets in, and I hate to think the length of the game itself was off-putting.
I approached the game less as an excessively complicated brain teaser mystery and more of an unfolding, mysterious story. Perhaps calling it a mystery made people expect certain things. I wanted interpersonal interactions colored by the different lines of dialogue from the masks to be the key element here and encourage experimentation via saves and multiple playthroughs. These interactions, after all, affected the ending state and decided who you were, as well as what became of other NPCs. There are big chunks of lore hidden in books and conversations which relate back to the central plot. I put extra effort into the ending, including slowly revealed graphics and sound that caused some of the people who reached it to report to me that they were very unsettled, hooray, because I thought players would be invested by that point.
All in all I feel that although it was my first time with Quest, it was markedly difficult compared to Twine, even considering the complicated graphical bits I’ve done in the latter in the past. Too difficult for my liking. I was also surprised to see that I was one of two Quest entrants this year. I had thought the system was more broadly used in previous years. It felt a little lonely in a way.
I always want to do something grandiose, and due to that I think I bite off too much. The finished product ends up containing multitudes… of experience-shattering problems.
Thank you to those who played and reviewed, it meant the world to me. Hopefully the game can enjoy a bit of a post-competition life.