I’m writing a satirical commentary on common tropes in IF games that starts with the player being dropped in West of House. They open the mailbox, revealing a leaflet that says something. I want to keep the overall narrative style of the game’s original leaflet, but mislead the player at the same time (this is a game about games, it might as well have an unreliable narrator.). If any of you have ideas, I’d love to hear them. Thanks!
Not an answer, but I’m reminded of Acheton, a horribly cruel and unfair game where you can follow a stream down from a well house to a locked grate. Opening and going down beneath the grate leads to…drowning in a frigid well that you can’t escape from.
I think some good unreliable narrator things you could do are:
-having a simple phrase in the leaflet that is usually just a saying be actually important (like MIT Zork telling you to send away for a brochure, which actually works). Maybe something silly like “Don’t forget to enjoy the view, it will change everything!” and have ENJOY teleport you when you’re on a cliff that mentions a great view.
-Have the leaflet blatantly lie (No hidden doors! No need for additional light sources!)
-Have the leaflet lie about itself (It could say it’s unimportant or inflammable, but some puzzle requires you to burn it.)
-Have the leaflet be folded but don’t mention it in the description. Later find something like a folded map you have to UNFOLD or an abandoned leaflet-folding machine, to help the player realize that you can unfold it, changing every meaning like an old Mad Magazine foldout. (The Dungeon area is exciting and relaxing!->The Dungeon area is anything but exciting and relaxing, but more clever.)
-Have the leaflet be the narrator, which you eventually discover, and it confronts you at some point, narrating a battle between you (as a weakling) and the leaflet (as intelligent and superior). In the middle of the battle, the leaflet is sacked a la Monty Python and you get a new narrator.
-Have the leaflet be a help system that changes every time you read it, but don’t tell the player explicitly. Typing HELP will mention that you can read the pamphlet for more information, but players assume that means the same thing every time.
Many of things are things I would find obnoxious as a player, but maybe they could give you some ideas.
I don’t know what to put in the pamphlet, but not long into the game you should be required to slip it under a locked door so as to catch the key you’re pushing out of the keyhole on the other side.
“Inflammable” is nice, because it actually means the same as flammable, but looks like it doesn’t.
Some implementations already in the game if this helps you think of ideas:
- When using >xyzzy, >plugh, or >plover, the narrator scolds you in a Magic Room for using the aforementioned word, leaving you to keep using the word to continue to get scolded by the narrator, eventually getting out after one of the three is used three times.
- The score is counted in zorkmids and is increased by reaching endings that don’t kill the player and easter eggs.
- The narrator initially resists giving the player >help, but gives them the actual command for help after they press a key.
- The game is styled like a standard Windows command prompt.
- If the player uses >win or >lose, they die.
- Undo prevention is active.
Don’t do this. I did this my first few games. I’ve learned UNDO is a courtesy you should always extend to your players.
Good point, MTW! I’ll remove undo prevention.
This is a very interesting idea. I’ve often considered making such a game for a while; a zorkian cave crawl with every sword-and-sorcery trope (from IF, as well as novels and films). And of course, since this is an IF pastiche, you could have the game end inside a space ship, which opens the possibility for a sci-fi themed sequel.
I’ve been working on an (unending) project to do something in a similar vein - the traditional ‘white house’ opening, but in a land where there’s been a ‘gold rush’ of adventurers by the time you get there. The accessible areas are stripped clean of real treasures, leaving only minor valuables or fakes. There’s a nearby town whose general store is sold out of most of the ‘traditional’ adventurer gear. There is treasure available in other areas, but they are inaccessible unless you are an official member of the Adventurers Guild… but you need to provide at least one real treasure to get membership. The initial portion of the game is to do just that.
Ultimately the idea is that as the game progresses, there are other options of paths to follow rather than just being an adventurer collecting treasures; but, even if you continue along that path to the end, there’s more to do and choices to make.
This sounds awesome!
Some references: Dianna Wynne Jones’ “Dark Lord of Derkholm” is set in a fantasy world that runs adventures for commercial tourists - people have to take it in turns to be the Dark Lord and so on. My own game “Portcullis” touches on adventuring-as-an-industry, but doesn’t take the idea as far as you have. I believe there’s an IF game about preparing a dungeon for the next adventurer, including putting all the treasures back, but I can’t remember what it’s called.
I think the putting-it-back game is Janitor (zero-sum game is related). Robin’s game Portcullis really is a great game to try in this vein.
This echoes the starting premise of the (shuttered, forgotten, likely non canon) Legends of Zork casual game; FrobozzCo shuts down, and all its unemployed sales staff take up adventuring, to the point where the game begins at a tent camp outside the White House.
Ooh, I’d really love to see a Dark Lord of Derkholm-style game. You spend your time going on an adventure where the respawning enemies (and yourself) and other player-friendly mechanics are a result of the adventure company’s setup… which is also why everything happens around you as the protagonist… but the ultimate challenge is to break the sequence enough that you can get into the backstage and take on the Evil Corporation that is setting it all up.
I remember briefly playing that - I hope that didn’t influence me!
Consciously, I was reaching more back to the ‘faceless adventurer’ trope; not as far as the parody of the concept in Z:GI, but more like in Zork Zero (such as when you attempt to look up yourself in the encyclopedia); there’s a later development in the game where one of the older, famous adventurers would start to feel their status threatened the more you succeed.
There is a tent camp of would-be adventurers in the game, but they are more sensibly placed near the town rather than right by the white house.