I need recommendation for friendly non-archaic IF

I have never played a lot of IF, I have always been much more interested in the idea of writing some myself, but I though that since I am writing one now I should maybe play a few to see what they are like.

After reading some threads here I decided to start with Wishbringer, and it has been nothing but an infuriating and frustrating experience. It is full of archaic and enormously punishing mechanics and fail-states that more or less force you to restart the game from scratch if you do something wrong at some point during the game. The fact that it’s archaic is of course partly because it’s almost 30 years old and I understand that.

What I want is something that doesn’t stress you out, something where you can’t prevent yourself from finishing the game by unwittingly leaving an item in a place that you can’t get back to or walking into a room that you are trapped in if you don’t have a certain item. Something that is calm and methodical and lets me play at my own pace, without having something chasing me and without dying just because I stood in the same place for 2 or 3 turns. Something that is in concept more like a Lucasarts game if you know what I mean.

Lost Pig!

Edited to not be two words: I’d say this is the closest I’ve played to a Lucasarts-esque sense of humour in IF. The puzzles are challenging but well-clued and never unfair, and it’s not too long, which is a plus for me at least.

Try browsing games rated merciful at the IFDB. Being “merciful” should guarantee that there’s no way to die or end up in an unwinnable situation. See also this and this and this poll.

You’re in luck: there’s been a general trend away from punishing the player and now the norm is for games to be impossible to get into a unwinnable situation.

You’re trying to write in Inform, right? Here are some of my recent favourites made in that language:

Six - A smart character-driven puzzle game in which you play a six year old trying to catch their friends in a park. It’s richly drawn, funny and engaging, makes neat use of sound, and the solutions all make sense.

If you like fantasy (you chose Wishbringer of all things), you might like Harry Potter? If you do, then you might like Muggle Studies, which is a puzzly fan game where you explore Hogwarts, doing magic stuff, and experiencing flashbacks and making choices about your future.

PataNoir: the concept is, you’re a private investigator who sees metaphors and similes everywhere, and can interact with those metaphors to solve problems. So, for instance, your gun is metaphorically a trusty is servant and so for you he is literally a trusty servant who can assist you in various ways.

I’d like to suggest Beet the Devil. I’m fairly biased (having written it), but I hope it fits your criteria for a non-stressful game. It’s a religious comedy about rescuing your dog from Hell, and it has a fairly linear, puzzle-by-puzzle flow, with an extensive hint system and walkthrough system if you should get stuck.

There is one timed puzzle, but it’s exceedingly late-game, and in the game’s context, I don’t think it will cause the kind of frustration that you experienced with Wishbringer.

Perdition’s Flames can’t be put in an unwinnable state, so it might fit the bill for you.

Looking at the Interactive Fiction top 50 (by the way, people, remember me to run this again this year in August / September): http://ifdb.tads.org/viewcomp?id=oymvom4wrawhd4hr, I think the following certainly or kind-of fit the bill. With “forgiving” I mean that there are no unwinnable states.

Spider and Web (this is actually a relatively difficult game, and sometimes quite peculiar about the commands you can use, but the longest part by far doesn’t allow you to get into an unwinnable state)
Lost Pig (a forgiving puzzle game)
Photopia (puzzleless)
A Mind Forever Voyaging (maybe – didn’t play, but it is supposed to not really have much in the way of puzzles)
The Baron (puzzleless)
Blue Lacuna (in story mode – you can choose this after the introduction)
Shrapnel (puzzleless, if I remember correctly)
Shade (though it’s not always easy to see how you must progress, you can’t screw up)
Slouching towards Bedlam (maybe – can’t remember precisely)
Vespers (maybe – can’t remember precisely)
Violet (a puzzle game, but forgiving)
Galatea (puzzleless)
The King of Shreds and Patches (a forgiving puzzle game)
LASH (maybe – can’t remember precisely)
Rameses (puzzleless)
Aisle (one-move game, I think winning is not the point)
Gun Mute (very forgiving puzzle game)
Aotearoa (forgiving puzzle game, I think)
Everybody Dies (forgiving puzzle game, I think)
Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home (somewhere between puzzleless and forgiving puzzle game)
Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis (forgiving puzzle game)
Suveh Nux (forgiving puzzle game)
The Warbler’s Nest (more or less puzzleless)

As you can see, that’s the vast majority of them! (And I didn’t list a few of the ones around the bottom of the list simply because I don’t know them.)

I haven’t played the majority of the games on that list, but I definitely wouldn’t call Spider and Web friendly. It’s downright hard in places. And The King of Shreds and Patches isn’t friendly either what with timed puzzles and the hoops you have to jump through to perform simple tasks (firing the pistol, I’m looking at you here). Both decent games, but not friendly.

From the opening post, I got the impression that Ozric especially hates games that can be put in an unwinnable state. I’m pretty sure King cannot be put in an unwinnable state, and I believe Spider can only be brought in an unwinnabe state near the very end of the game, I believe (and it’s pretty obvious when the transformation from forgiving to now-it-is-for-real takes place). So, yeah, they’re not necessarily easy – though I think King is generally quite friendly and relaxed – but they don’t have the feature that Ozric especially hates.

As David is observing, “Can’t get stuck” and “Not super difficult” aren’t the same thing. If you’re mostly looking for “can’t get stuck” there will be a lot of games that work for you.

If you’re also looking for a LucasArtsish sense of humor… well, I’ve never played any LucasArts games so I’m not sure exactly what’s going on there. But you might try Dinner Bell, Taco Fiction, or, for a real puzzly experience, Hoosegow. (Hoosegow has a time limit but I think it’s near-impossible to breach – I thrashed around with it an amazingly long time, and broke the hint system, but I wasn’t close to the time limit. If you do feel stuck, there’s a hint system, which I think is now unbreakable.)

Oh, and you might try Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder; it’s possible to screw yourself up here but the point is that it’s impossible to get a perfect score.

To abandon ship just go to the capstan and get in the lifeboat.

“Calm and methodical”… Hmmm… if you’re in the mood for HARDER games, there’s also some that you can’t get stuck “walking dead” on (i.e., they are “merciful” in Zarf’s scale).

These would include Delightful Wallpaper and Dual Transform and Hoist Sail For The Heliopause And Home - not necessarily easy, but merciful (DW in particular is a bit of a puzzle box).

“Anchorhead” is polite until the endgame. You can die until that point, but it’s always obvious when you’re in danger.

“Fail-safe” is merciful. You can lose the game, but it all amounts to a final decision, not some item you should have picked up rooms ago.

“Not just an ordinary ballerina” and “Flustered duck” are pure puzzlefests - AFAIK, they are merciful, or at least polite. If you’re in the mood for puzzles rather than story, try these.

“A fine day for Sushi” and “Galatea” are worth mentions as well. Probably “Alabaster” too. And “City of Secrets”.

You see, there are lots of them around. :slight_smile: Mostly what you’ll want to do is check the forgiveness scale - you’ll want MERCIFUL and/or POLITE. Be sure to read reviews if there are any, they’ll give you an idea what to expect.

And stay way, way, way clear of the classics Curses and Jigsaw. They are definitely worth your time, but you’ll need time to graduate to those puppies.

It’s possible to make “Flustered Duck” unwinnable toward the very end – I think this is the only time – but it’ll probably be pretty clear when you’ve done that. Still, I think this makes it technically “Nasty,” though maybe it’s clear that you’re doing something risky which would push it down to “Tough.”

There’s a muskrat or something that you have to gamble with at the end of the game. If you lose a critical item, you’re SOL.

Oh, and you may be able to make things unwinnable by

forgetting to tie up the pig

but I’m pretty sure you get at least one warning (the first time it happens the game undoes it for you). However, the thing I just spoilered is not fun.

Anyway this is a real puzzlefest. But the hint system is a joy and a delight. Seriously – it got me through a lot of puzzles I’d never have solved and helped me enjoy a game I’d have found frustrating.

These games are (from personal experience) merciful, excellently written, and all-around fun. Most have already been suggested but I wanted to add my votes to them.

  • Lost Pig (And Place Under Ground) by Admiral Jota (simple but subtle)
  • The Dreamhold by Andrew Plotkin (a great puzzle-fest tutorial game)
  • Delightful Wallpaper by Andrew Plotkin (nontraditional and creepy)
  • Bronze by Emily Short (a retold fairy tale; some endings may become unreachable, but probably not by accident, and you’re never completely stuck)
  • Muggle Studies by M. Flourish Klink (Harry Potter fanfic)
  • Photopia by Adam Cadre (low on puzzles but very very atmospheric)

Other games mentioned on this thread are very likely to be good choices too; these are just the ones I’ve personally played through. I’ll look up Flustered Duck though; I hadn’t heard of that one and I like puzzle-fests.

I always recommend The Dreamhold by Andrew Plotkin and Bronze by Emily Short to new IF players, because they’re merciful, well-written, and have very nice hint systems so you should never need to resort to an online walkthrough.

On the other hand, be aware that they are quite huge, and Dreamhold in particular is… different. I am always very, very wary of springing Dreamhold on beginners.

Matt w, yeah, that’s not fun, but you get a warning like you said. And I’m not sure that there isn’t a way to circumvent that. And I’m not talking about the alternative method of transport. I was under the impression there was a way to get by if you did what’s under your second spoiler tag.

Could be wrong, accourse.

Pretty much anything by Emily Short is the state of the art for games that are thoughtful of the player. Her most recent major oeuvre is Counterfeit Monkey, which is a “full length game,” meaning you should expect to have to put in upwards of eight hours to play it, and it’s definitely puzzly but never sadistic or opaque. Bronze and Savoir Faire are Comp-length, meaning that it is technically possible to play them in around two hours. Galatea and A Day for Fresh Sushi are bite-sized, though Galatea is highly replayable. And there are many others…

These are all great suggestions! Bookmarking this thread for if I ever want to play something.

I second most of these suggestions. I think ‘The Lost Spellmaker’ fits the bill (LucasArts like). It’s one of my favourite games. Do check out Em Short’s games too. Doris DeLightning has that dry humour you like.

Most of the suggestions in this thread seem good to me, especially “Lost Pig,” “Violet,” “Hoist Sail,” “Taco Fiction,” “The Warbler’s Nest,” “Muggle Studies,” and “Aotearoa.” I’d add “Robin & Orchid” and “Mrs. Pepper’s Nasty Secret” to the list.

Brendan Desilets

Thanks for all the suggestions. I started with Lost Pig but unfortunately that game was exactly what I didn’t want as I managed to get myself into a situation where I cannot progress the game and therefor not beat it.

I think that I would prefer to try ones that aren’t very hard when it comes to puzzles, as I didn’t last more than about 15 minutes in Lost Pig before I started looking at a walkthrough.

EDIT: So I managed to find a forum post that showed a way to still finish Lost Pig, so I did finish it. Also I mentioned LucasArts because it’s my reference for adventure games that you generally can’t fail, unlike a lot of the early Sierra games. I didn’t mean that the IF games have to necessarily be humorous or silly.