Let's Play: Cragne Manor

Why not an exquisite corpse review for an exquisite corpse game? An anthology-style review with one contributor per room?

Now, we’d just have to find a capable editor… :wink: Mike :wink:

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Thanks, and congrats for getting so far in your playthrough! Seems like we’ve had some slightly different experiences (I didn’t have any spray bottle issues, with the Family Plot being my buggy widowmaker) and some that were the same (that @#$#@ mildew). And I definitely had the same feeling that the smaller, quieter moments are in some ways just as important to Cragne Manor as the setpieces. Anyway, in service of pumping the review count, I’d be interested to hear your overall thoughts once you make it across the finish line!

Thanks so much! And I very much hope this thread can be helpful for motivation, or just comparing notes, for other folks’ playthroughs.

Ha, sorry! I’ve tried not to be a jerk about pointing out small bugs when I’ve found them since there but for the grace of God go I, but that one was kinda fun, and I thought also maybe linked to an Easter Egg.

I thought it worked really well for that – especially coming as a one-two punch after the Shack.

Thank you sir! Though I think I was more the tortoise than a Greek hero this time – slow but steady wins the race…

Oh my gosh, that’s a hilarious idea!

This though occurred to me too – like, if I’d come back to IF two years earlier than I did, I suspect I also would have wanted to have signed up to contribute. Perhaps as time goes by and creates community churn, there’ll wind up being more and more potential players.

Very much so – there are obviously lots of individual pieces worth highlighting, but it’s the work they put into making the whole thing work together so, so much better than you think it possibly could that’s Cragne Manor’s greatest achievement IMO.

Ha! I appreciate the vote of confidence, and you know, with the saves in this thread, it wouldn’t be too hard to set reviewers up with their own file taking them right to their room with all the stuff they’d need… I’m going to be trying to shift more of my IF time at least for the next year or so back to writing, but if anyone wants to take something like this on for the 5th anniversary (or 10th, or 15th…) I’m down to help out however I can.

Quick thread update: I was expecting to be hammered with last minute IF Comp testing, but my schedule’s actually cleared a bit, so I’m hoping to get Bonus Update #1 (XYZZY and commentary) done before the end of the month, maybe even in the next couple of days.

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Perhaps even compiled and printed into a coffee table book, maybe funded on Kickstarter, with proceeds going to an IFTF fund, or something else, I don’t know…

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if a book happens I can dig out the postmortems people sent in to the Cragne email, should probably publish those somewhere at some point regardless

(also I think the bugs in the Cragne family plot might be my fault? apologies if so)

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Bonus Chapter the First: It’s a Kind of Magic

Folks, if you thought a complete Cragne Manor playthrough comprising a 424-post thread with an expected read time of (checks) 12 hours would be enough to make me realize I’d probably said everything worth saying here, I fear we haven’t gotten to know each other as well as I thought we had. So yes, as promised/threatened, this is the first of three bonus update.

Today we’re going to go through every room in the game and try out the canonical IF magic words (XYZZY, plugh, and plover – though, er, I typoed plugh as plough for like the first third and was too lazy to go back once I caught the mistake. Very very few rooms implemented anything for that, though, so I think it’s no big deal). We’re also going to use the walkie-talkie we got in the attic to check out the commentary folks implemented in their rooms.

(I’d also promised to go through and check whether the awesome EAT LIBRARY debug messages unearthed above actually show up in the game – sadly, I wasn’t able to find a way to trigger them, either because that bug got squashed in development or because I had to enter that command at an earlier stage of the game – I did my run-through right before jumping into the portal with everything unlocked and opened).

Not every room has all – and some don’t have any – of these things, of course. I’m just editing out the places where there’s no commentary or no response to the magic words (or both), so if you notice something or someplace missing, that’s why.

Without further ado, let’s go back – waaaay back:

Railway Platform (Naomi Hinchen)

>xyzzy
The world falls silent for a moment, as if holding its breath for something to happen… but nothing does. You don’t know what you expected, really.

Ha, a good response – one always types that hoping for something but without any concrete end in mind. None of the other words do anything, so it’s on to the commentary:

>push button
Which do you mean, the round button or the triangular button?

Sigh, even in the bonus update we’re having disambiguation issues.

>push walkie-talkie
You can’t see any such thing.

Er, what? Did we stash it in a container, maybe? At one point I crammed all our inventory into the box of Nilla Wafers just for the fun of it, so that could be the problem.

>take walkie-talkie
You can’t see any such thing.

Erg, that’s no good. And when I take inventory and painstakingly pore over its 170-odd (and I do mean odd) mildew-tainted lines, I sure don’t see a walkie-talkie. I feel a moment of panic that I’ve chucked it somewhere inaccessible, but then realize some of the backpack’s pockets are closed, including the side pocket, which, as it turns out, is where I stashed it, logically enough.

(This happens to me all the time in real life, by the way – on the few occasions when I take the time to put something in a reasonable place, I invariably forget all about it and lose the thing. This is why my Downloads folder for a not-very-old computer has 2,400 files in it. It’s not a best practice, but look, one time I heard someone from Google say “search, not sort” and I took that as license for my bad behavior).

The bonus update back on track, we get our first bit of commentary:

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-not familiar with Anchorhead before starting this project. Having been assigned the railway station, I was excited to discover Anchorhead’s Ghost Train legend, and then disappointed that the actual train in Anchorhead was entirely corporeal. Well, here was my chance to do something about that…

The rat came out of playtesting. Originally there was just a line of flavor text that mentioned a rat, but when players kept trying to interact with the rat, I planned to expand its role. Then, partway through implementing the puzzle, I realized that the room could technically be completed without the winding key. This would have been fine, except that it obviated the requirement for my input item, which would have short-circuited the entire puzzle track. So I rearranged the puzzle to ensure that the input item was necessary. The room could still be completed without the winding key (in two ways, in fact), but I wanted the key to be the “intended” solution and leave the others as Easter eggs. Therefore I needed a way to get the key that was fairly straightforward, but a little more interesting than just leaving it lying around… and that’s where the rat came in.

When implementing the clock, I considered tracking the difference between the “real” time of day and the time on the clock after the player sets it to a different time. Then I decided it would be easier just to make the time of day conform to the clock time. So the clock is a magic clock that bends time when you set it. Hey, we’re in Lovecraft Country; anything is possible. (Speaking of which, the towns on the schedule board are all Lovecraftian settings.)

The anniversary date on the watch is my parents’ anniversary. The protagonist being named Naomi is nothing to do with me, but was sometimes surreal during Slack discussions. (I did instruct one new-to-IF playtester to “x me”, resulting in him typing “x naomi”. He didn’t even know it was the protagonist’s name; he thought I meant myself.)

I meant to have cryptic messages, possibly procedurally generated, emitting from the PA system, but I didn’t get them written in time. You can replicate the effect I was going for by listening to Welcome to Night Vale while playing the room.

Some bits of text in this room are taken verbatim from Anchorhead. Since it’s an homage it doesn’t count as stealing, right?

A few things to try in this room just for fun: XYZZY, WAVE, JUMP, SING (more than once), TIE ME TO TRACKS, WEAR LABEL, THINK (before and after examining the watch and suitcase), SWITCH OFF CLOCK, standing on the tracks and waiting a few turns, FLIP COIN.

Finally, much thanks to all my playtesters: J.T. Hinchen, Jeremy Murphy, Kathy Karch, Josh Luckens, Charlotte Spreadbury, E. Joyce, Andrew Schultz, Caleb Wilson, Jeremy Freese, Lucian Smith, and Adri. And thanks for?"

The transmission is cut off when you finally let go of the button. Now your thumb kind of hurts.

Okay that’s more than a bit (ably lampshaded with that last comment there). There’s a lot of fun stuff to dig into here, though – it’s funny, the fact that the first room was authored by someone named Naomi was part of why I jumped to Nitocris as the name of the protagonist, since it somehow seemed too oddly coincidental that she would be named Naomi too.

I had to go back and re-read the room to make sense of the bit about the rat, winding key, and alternate solutions – the way it works in the final version, if you mess with the rat (Nitocris said Vaadignephod to him, cause that’s just how she rolls) it drops the winding key that allows you to change the time on the clock, but you also need the employee ID from the lobster trap down by the river to get the suitcase out of the lost and found, which held the box that we smashed open with the ghost train to get the coin that you feed into the vending machine to get the bubble (whew). I’m guessing in the first iteration the suitcase was just lying around on the bench, near Peter’s watch, but the issue is that you can just wait (many, many) turns and the ghost train will eventually show up, so you don’t strictly speaking need the winding key (I’m blanking on what a second alternate solution could be).

There’s also that mini-AMUSING list at the end – we tried some but not all of these in our playthrough:

>think
You’re worried about Peter. He was supposed to be back by now, but you haven’t heard a word from him since he went to his family’s old house in Backwater. You’ve never been there before; he doesn’t like to talk about his family much, and you got the impression there was some bad blood there.

And now you’ve found his belongings left behind in the station. That can’t be a good sign…

“Bad blood”, huh? We didn’t know the half of it!

>wave
There’s no one here to wave at, so you’re just doing jazz hands.

>jump
You do a few jumping jacks. Great, that’s your cardio for today!

Well, we also did a bunch of swimming under the bridge, we ran back and forth between Carol and Christabell a couple times, we climbed all the way to the top of the greenhouse… I think we can skip a couple gym days after this ordeal.

>sing
Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame…

>g
I’ve been a wild rover for many a year…

>g
Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore…

>g
Just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world…

Real talk, I only recognized the Bon Jovi and Journey here (the others are a Pogues song – this reminds me I don’t roll as deep with the Pogues as I should – and an aria from Tosca, which is different from Turandot and there my knowledge ends).

>u
You get onto the bench.

>switch off clock
(the clock)
The world comes to a halt around you. All sound stops, a stray leaf freezes in midair, and the air becomes suddenly thick and suffocating. You try to switch the clock back on, but you cannot move or even blink; you are stuck as you are, frozen in this moment forever.

*** Time itself has stopped. ***

Ha, that’s a great ending – er, not just of us but I guess of the world. That’s one way of giving ol’ Vaady what-for, I suppose!

>tie me to tracks
Who are you, Snidely Whiplash?

>yes
There’s no one here to talk to.

Aww.

As I’m faffing about, this happens:

A ghastly spectral cuckoo flies out of the round white wall clock (smelling faintly of mildew) and announces, “The time is now seven o’clock!” before vanishing into thin air.

(I told you I’d been carrying around the cuckoo clock from the upstairs landing, right?)

I wonder…

>x clock
(the clock)
The clock face seems almost to be staring at you, as the second hand sweeps hypnotically around it. The time shown is 11:14 pm. Standing on the bench, you can see a small keyhole on one side of the clock.

Clash of the clocks! I think you guys should fight.

Anyway, that’s all I can think to do, and what a great way to start this update off – really, this is a great great room, with lots of fun stuff to play with. It’s maybe hard to fully appreciate when first starting the game due to the enormity of what’s ahead, but in retrospect, the Train Station is a very auspicious and maybe underappreciated beginning for Cragne Manor.

We’re not going to be spending nearly this much time in most of the places we visit, of course.
Moving on:

Train Station Lobby (Shin)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-really short room definition started one week before the deadline. I hope this-”

Ha, yeah, not much more to say here! For a room only implemented in a week, it seemed bug free and did what it needed to, so nothing wrong with that.

There’s nothing in the station restroom or security office, so on we go:

Exterior of Train Station (Emily Short with additions from Graham Nelson)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-contrary, my number one ambition on being invited to contribute a single room to a very large game was to work out how I could make my elements rely on and react to other people’s contributions even though I had no idea what those contributions were going to be. I’ve also been on a procedural text kick lately.

Some of the doll’s remarks are based on a dream interpretation corpus assembled for PROSECCO by Tony Veale (though they have been heavily curated and edited). Many others I made up, focusing on words that exist in Anchorhead, words commonly used by Lovecraft, words that were especially likely to appear in the Inform world model, or words I thought were especially likely to turn up in item descriptions, such as colors, materials, sizes and shapes.

(Jenni’s Note: Lest Emily be blamed for this, I wrote the book that she was kind enough to let me store in her trash can.–"

I’m actually super interested in how the doll was implemented – you might remember that when you pull the string, it mentions a (non-scenery, I think?) object in the room and often interjects a little flavor about it based on like an adjective – and since the source code is in Zarf’s repository, we’ll dig into that in the second bonus update.

And I have to say I’m not surprised the divination handbook was Jenni’s work – it explains the coffee, of course, which we knew was her work, and also the sense of humor feels quite different from Emily Short’s! I love her games, but I feel like her jokes tend to be way more dry.

Milkweed (Caleb Wilson)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "?from the train tracks, this could be any number of roads in the town where I grew up. Milkweed doesn’t usually grow that high, though the highly invasive Heracleum mantegazzianum, or Giant Hogweed, does. Not that you’d normally find that in Vermont either, except for the time my dad planted one, not realizing how noxious the sap of that species is. One became many. Don’t try this at home.

Speaking of “Don’t Try This At Home,” this room is dedicated to my favorite band-who-almost-everyone-misjudges-based-on-their-biggest-hit: Chumbawamba.

Don't Try This At Home - YouTube"

That link goes to the Chumbawamba song of the same name, which based on its lyrics seems quite political and might be more typical of their output than Tubthumping is – hopefully my writeup assessed them accurately!

Also, does this mean Caleb is a native Vermonter? If so, I don’t think there are too many other contributors who can make that claim!

Church Exterior (Andy Holloway)

>xyzzy
For a moment, some awful understanding is laid bare to you, but it retreats quickly, leaving only a haunting disquiet.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-you like standing outside a church, because that’s what my room is all-”

I do like standing in front of churches (and in the game!) so yes, this worked out quite well for me.

Skipping over a bunch of locations that don’t have anything to say:

The Dim Recesses of the Forest (Jacqueline A. Lott Ashwell)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "?you to Michael Gentry for the original Anchorhead, which I first experienced while driving across the vast expanse of the United States. Sam Ashwell was my passenger/narrator, and punched in commands with a tiny stylus on a Palm Pilot. Ah, memories! Certain pieces of text in my room are in italics; those are callbacks to the original game, bits of text from Anchorhead that fit this room nicely and helped add to its feel.

Thanks to Ryan and Jenni for this wild idea, and for all the work they did to make it happen. Thanks to Sam Ashwell, Andrew Schultz, and Jack Welch for testing this room. And thanks to you for-"

Oh, that’s a fun way to have first played Anchorhead! I’ve played some IF with my wife, and it often works really well as a shared, social, experience.

The Old Well (Reed Lockwood)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-may be inspired by Michael S. Gentry’s “Anchorhead” and the collected fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, but this room strikes a bit of a different tone. I’d say the two foremost inspirations are Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who” and the Tomagotchi virtual pet.

My plans for this room were too large in scope, and despite the fact that I was unemployed for the entirety of the collaboration, I almost gave up near the end, thinking I wouldn’t be able to finish in time.

Originally, I had plans for a few other puzzles before you got to the creature farming portion. The device would have allowed you not just to see the four fantastic microscopic worlds present here, but also a number of others that were subcontained inside those worlds as well, scaling down powers-of-ten style. For example, on the quartz plain there would have been a blue flower, and inside the flower there would have been a blue jungle with a pyramid, and at the tip of the pyramid would have been a tiny mountain, etc.

Within these sub-worlds there would have been additional puzzles, including a switch that let you turn on the egg machine, a number of decoy arches that crumbled when you tried to activate them, and a monster that ate your eggs if you did not dispose of it. The puddle was instead going to be a basin that you filled and emptied from the well, allowing you to go to either the sea if full, or a barren plain of salt crystals if empty. There would also be a puzzle where you guided the bulbous-headed creatures to their home in the fungal forest. All of these things were cut due to time constraints, and one can see where other corners were cut as well - there are some barebones items in here that lack proper interactivity, and much of the text bears signs of hasty writing.

Overall though, I’m happy with how the project turned out - Though I’m relatively familiar with Inform 7 just from fooling around with it over the years, I had not yet completed a project of this scale. This was certainly an excellent learning experience, and I had a great time discussing Inform with the other community members on the chat.

Every different combination produces a viable creature, and some of the endings are quite interesting, in my opinion - There are 27 total monsters in all, so I encourage you to go back and take a look at some you didn’t get to see - one even results in quite a positive ending, I think!

Special thanks to the organizers, and to this room’s brave and selfless testers:
Caleb Wilson
Matt Weiner
Jack Welch
Rachel Spitler
Andrew Schultz
Erica Newman
Buster Hudson

If I can have just another moment of your time, allow me to-"

You let go of the button. Your hand really hurts.

I know that the text cuts off at a procedurally-generated point, but that’s a pretty funny place for it to terminate! My mind boggles at the idea that there was once even more to this incredibly deep room – I think it’s for the best that those additional layers didn’t wind up being realized since while I definitely enjoyed it, it sometimes felt like a whole lot.

Circular Room (JP)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-statements delimit memory in binary reliquaries/Polarizing filters flatten boxes, and free bold-”

Huh, this is like hardware poetry? Feels like a reference to something, but a quick Google isn’t turning anything up.

(Lots more to come)

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(Bonus Chapter the First, continued)

Picking up with a doozy:

Inside the Shack (Daniel Ravipinto)

>xyzzy
Voices echo out of the ether in response to your Call…

“Receiving Lon-4-G-C…”

“…earing you - identify Xerxes Yellow Zebra Zebra Yellow…”

“…well enough to…”

“…lear, CQ…go ahead…”

That’s also the XYZZY response in Slouching Towards Bedlam, as it turns out.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-checking out the commentary for “Inside the Shack!” The central idea for this room showed up almost-fully-formed as soon as I read the basic description of the project. I knew I wanted to do something strange involving existential horror, but that wasn’t a puzzle. Instead, I wanted an experience where the player had access to a “toy” that they could manipulate until it reached a state that they found satisfactory. The result ended up being both Lovecraftian and something of a riff off the kinds of games I’ve written in the past (the Book functionally being a state-machine that you get to decide the final state of).

The Prism sequence wasn’t part of my original vision, but instead grew out of a joke that Jenni Polodna made on the project Slack that ended up taking on a life of its own. There are over twenty strange visuals that can occur in the Prisms and it’s impossible for a player to see all of them on a single playthrough.

The Book is much the same. There are three pages with four possible settings, each of which can vary between two and four states. (It’s a lot.) In fact, there was originally a fourth page to the Book that was dropped due to time constraints. I took the ideas from that page and spread them through the other three and I think the Book sequence is better for it.

It’s my hope that you got to experiment with the Book and that you liked the photograph you ended up-"

You can’t take it anymore: You release the button, and relieve your aching thumb.

Ah yes, the Book that was the centerpiece of this room, where we experimented a bunch and wound up with the photo of our choice.

Wait, what? All I did here was turn pages and then pull the bookmark when I was done, and apparently that means I missed the entire point of the room and, it seems like, the majority of the work the author put in? Ooof, that’s too bad!

…in fact, this was a pivotal enough room that I’ll do some replaying to see what Dan’s talking about here.

Here are some of the views into other prisms that we get this time, which we didn’t see in our first go-round:

Your eyes randomly focus on one of the other chambers. Peter keeps trying to put
Naomi back together. But the pieces don’t fit. And there are too many fingers.

You glance up. Naomi and Peter are reading books back to back. The pages are
sticking to Peter’s fingers. Naomi seems to be melting into Peter’s back.

You look to your left. You see nothing but Naomis. There must be twenty stuffed in
there. They are all singing.

I like that one!

There’s another prism visible now. Naomi and Peter hold one another as blood and
laughter pour from their mouths in equal parts.

That one’s less fun.

Here’s a reminder of what the book looks like, once we get there:

The Book of All Your Days
Above the first of the Book’s pages float sigils in the Tongue which read WHEN WE
WERE NOT YET. The others await a mere turning away.

A tableau of meeting is laid out across the Book’s scenery: a domicile of primitive
education. Tiny entities scurry in the background from gathering to gathering,
futilely attempting to expand their primitive minds. In the foreground is a
momentous meeting between two entities as small as the others that crowd the
scene. The Naomi-entity seems to be greeting the Peter-entity.

The Four Fundamental Movements of the Utter North, South, East and West are still
available.

Do we just go a direction? Despite the very clear cueing, for some reason I never tried that first time through.

> e
The entities within the Page move about, believing themselves the masters of their
own fate. The Peter-entity advances to the front of the Page.

Now if we look, one detail has changed:

The Peter-entity seems to be greeting the Naomi-entity.

What if we go south?

> s
The spatial axis of the Book turns. The Book brightens as the space within warps
without touching the entities themselves. The real location has become a false one.

Now a different detail has shifted:

A tableau of meeting is laid out across the Book’s scenery: a false scene of lights and
two-dimensional scenery, seemingly for the purpose of entertainment. The
background is awash in activity - a swarm of entities at work.

Will north just reverse that?

> n
She Who Turns the Gyre begins her work and the gearwork of the universe spins
once more. The small entities shift about, growing larger.

Ah, OK – the directions don’t oppose each other, they each look like independent toggles. Here’s the change:

In the foreground is a momentous meeting between two adolescent entities.

Let’s try north again to age us up even more:

In the foreground is a momentous meeting between two adult entities.

And again:

In the foreground is a momentous meeting between two elderly entities.

(One more north resets us back to childhood).

That leaves west:

> w
The Page flips entire and the basis of reality changes. Above the tableau a billion
billion stars bloom - the sprouting of the endless mindgates of the
Vaadignephod-entity, beginning the work of spreading its Aspects across the Page’s
possibilities

Umm, that doesn’t seem great!

The Peter-entity seems to be greeting the Naomi-entity. They are heedless of the danger of Vaadignephod’s spreading mindgates, the nearest one’s tentacles about to snatch up Peter.

Putting it all together, east shifts which of the characters is playing the more active role, south changes the backdrop, north shifts the time, and west invites our buddy Vaadignephod to play a more active role.

This pattern mostly holds in the other pages, too – on the second page, “WHEN WE BECAME”, east toggles the second character between being Peter and being some unknown, other person, while south turns the ritual backdrop from a green, druid-y one to one with a necromancer vibe and another that’s bibliomantic. North and west work basically work the same, except instead of Vaadignephod we can toggle the “Mourning Star” on and off – doesn’t seem great either! For the last page, “WHEN WE ARE NO LONGER”, north and east work the same as on page one, south toggles between a hospital, Naomi and Peter’s house, and what looks like a court, and west summons and dismisses the Legions of the Impious, who for some reason appear to have it in for Peter.

There’s obviously a lot of permutations here; I’ll drop the full transcript and a new save right before this sequence at the end of the update in case folks want to play around themselves. I mess around a bit to get an aesthetically-appealing arrangement – here’s what I wind up with:

Above the first of the Book’s pages float sigils in the Tongue which read WHEN WE
WERE NOT YET. The others await a mere turning away.

A tableau of meeting is laid out across the Book’s scenery: a false scene of lights and
two-dimensional scenery, seemingly for the purpose of entertainment. The
background is awash in activity - a swarm of entities at work. In the foreground is a
momentous meeting between two adult entities. The Naomi-entity seems to be
greeting the Peter-entity. They are heedless of the danger of Vaadignephod’s
spreading mindgates, the nearest one’s tentacles about to snatch up Naomi.

Above the second of the Book’s pages float sigils in the Tongue which read WHEN
WE BECAME. The others await a mere turning away.

A tableau of a primitive binding ritual is laid out across the Book’s scenery: a single
overseer of the ritual dressed in black, standing in a very small space, surrounded
by the books that must contain the complex runes necessary for the ritual. In the
foreground stand those that must be bound. They are adolescent, younger than
those that surround them. One of the entities is the Naomi-entity. The other is not
known to the collective. Above the ritual stands the ultimate symbol of the
Weaver-collective’s triumph: the Mourning Star. Its rays reach to all corners of the
scene, preparing all entities to become part of a unified whole. It shines most
strongly upon the unknown entity.

Above the third of the Book’s pages float sigils in the Tongue which read WHEN WE
WERE NO LONGER. The others await a mere turning away.

A tableau of some sort of parting ritual is laid out across the Book’s scenery: a
servant of Law, sitting behind a desk, surrounded by books of ritual and protocol.
In the foreground stand those are to be parted. They are adolescent, barely sentient.
The Peter-entity has begun the ritual.

Outside the scene, like a churning sea of locusts, stand the Legions of the Impious.
Each with a single, glowing gem of green crystal from Its forehead, each prepared toface the growing threat of Those from Without. The are caught mid-stride,
preparing to swarm towards the Peter-entity.

That gives us this photo:

It’s an old black and white photograph, with a silvery sheen that indicates that perhaps it was
taken in the the early 1900s. It depicts an office of some kind. In the back, before shelves of
books, sits a man in a suit. A lawyer? You and Peter are sitting on a sofa, as far from each other
as possible. You’re both so young - barely out of your teens. An impossibly tall man strides into
the room, brandishing a gem identical to the one that grows between the hollowed-out sockets
of his eyes.

This is from the day of your divorce.

You begged him to reconsider when you met to sign the papers in Reno, but he wouldn’t hear a
word of it. He just didn’t care what it would do to you. Where it would leave you.

But in the end, none of that really mattered, did it? They crashed through the office, having
overrun most of the block. The secretary you’d spoken to in the waiting room held you down
as the man pressed his gems first to the lawyer’s head, then Peter’s. They screamed and spit
and fought, but when it entered them, they went slack. Then they smiled. You remember
Peter’s smile was as empty as his eyes. And then they came for you, and the green pressed
against your temple until you could think of nothing else but the pain. And then you could
think of nothing else but the cause. And you and Peter and the lawyer followed the man out
into the street, there to stand and do what was needful and necessary. There to do what was
right.

This is impossible. There’s no way this happened. There’s no way it could have happened. And
yet — you remember. You remember it as certainly as you remember anything else in your life.

Huh, that seems like it’s just riffing on the last page? What if we go back and turn to the first page before pulling the bookmark:

It’s a color photograph, taken with a Polaroid, given the distinctive frame. It depicts a stage
crowded with scenery and equipment. In the foreground are you and Peter. You’re wearing
that awful grass green skirt your friend Muriel convinced you to buy. Peter’s in slacks and a
black shirt. He looks nervous, and his smile is distinctly awkward. You’re leaning in, your head
against his shoulder. Neither of you seem to notice the horrible black blot that fills the
upper-right portion of the photograph, nor the inky tentacles that are reaching for you.

This was taken backstage at the tryouts you met Peter at. You’d done some theater in college
and it’d been awhile since you’d done anything that felt really creative and when Muriel
brought you the poster about the play, you decided to give it a try. Given that you hadn’t done
anything like this in years, you didn’t know a single soul. Neither, apparently, did Peter. But he
warmed to you immediately. You chatted and there were obviously sparks between you from
the beginning. Doubly so when you ended up reading for the parts together. You had a really
good feeling when the director asked to take a snapshot of the two of you together. A really
good feeling about more than just the play.

Of course, those good feelings went away the instant the screams started. You watched as the
tendrils snatched Peter up and away from you, disappearing into the darkness. You couldn’t
move, you couldn’t react. This couldn’t be happening. And then there were tendrils around you
and the black came and smothered the world until nothing was left.

Okay, it’s just the state of whichever page you pull the bookmark on that seems to matter – phew, I thought the combination of all the variables across all three pages was being factored in, which was making my head spin. Here’s the last photo of the set, corresponding to the WHEN WE BECAME I laid out above:

It’s an old black and white photograph, with a silvery sheen that indicates that perhaps it was
taken in the the early 1900s. It depicts an office of some kind. In the back, before shelves of
books, stands a judge in black robes. You and a man you remember as Frank stand in the
foreground. He’s in a tuxedo, you’re in a lovely floor-length dress. You’re both so young -
barely out of your teens. From a window to one side, a strange and powerful light floods the
room.

This is from the day you were married! You remember it like it was yesterday. It was so awful.
Papa had never approved of you and Frank. That was why you’d always met in secret. But then Mama had found out you were… in the family way. All of a sudden, any talk of separating the
two of you stopped and they and Frank’s family demanded that you and Frank tie the knot
immediately. But you’d never listened to your parents. First chance you got, you ran off to the
courthouse to elope.

But in the end, all the planning didn’t mean anything. For through the window a new sun
exploded, eating away the walls of the courthouse. The judge melted into his robes and the
blackened creature he became began to eat the books, growing like a fattened worm. Frank
clawed at his face until his hands melted through his skull. And you remember dissolving into
the floor, becoming part of every person, plant and stone that melted with you.

I think the ones with less overt supernatural presence would wind up more effective for me – these are all fun, but the one we got in the main playthrough seemed way creepier.

Anyway, another fun diversion but let’s get back to what we’re here to do:

Outside the Library (Gavin Inglis)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-room nearly had a tiny free library on a stand, inspired by the Little Free Library on Exchange Terrace, Providence, RI. But it seemed like a waste to put it outside a full-sized library. I love-”

Too bad we didn’t get that – those little free libraries are cool, and plus, if I have one critique of Cragne Manor, it’s that there aren’t enough libraries.

Speaking of:

Backwater Public Library (Carl Muckenhoupt)

A detail has changed here:

The librarian’s dress is lying in a deflated heap on the floor. A trail of slime connects it to a vent in the wall.

You can also see a gray wig and a wax mask here.

Umm, what?

>x dress
It’s a plain dark floor-length thing with long sleeves and a high collar, like something an antagonistic Victorian governess would wear.

>take it
Taken.

>wear it
You put on the librarian’s dress.

I’m sure this is slimy AF, but how can we not?

>x wig
Gray acrylic hair bound up in a tight bun.

>take it
Taken.

>wear it
You put on the gray wig.

This is getting fun!

>x wax
A perfect replica of the librarian’s face, molded in wax.

>take it
Taken.

>wear it
You put on the wax mask.

>x me
Disheveled. Exhausted. Disguised as a librarian. Not crying yet. Glad to be in from the cold, if only for a little while.

…you’re telling me I could have rescued Peter while dressed up as librarian, down to a creepy wax life-mask? Aww man.

>x vent
Just an ordinary heating vent, a few inches across, high on the back wall. A trail of slime connects it to the spot on the floor where you found the dress.

>open vent
There’s no vent cover.

>enter vent
That’s not something you can enter.

Too bad, though as this isn’t a Deus Ex game I suppose it’s fine that the vents are off-limits.

Anyway, this isn’t what we’re here for!

>xyzzy

Huh, that’s a bug (blank output). This is another room with publicly-available source code, so hopefully we can see what’s up – clearly XYZZY is meant to do something here.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-library is the endpoint of one of Cragne Manor’s major puzzle tracks, so its main puzzle was laid out in advance by the project’s organizers. Beyond that, the specifics of the room largely flow from my laziness. I didn’t want to bother implementing dialogue, so I made a librarian who insists on silence. That’s a pretty unrealistic stereotype in my experience, so I decided the librarian isn’t real. That reminded me of the mute man from Lovecraft’s The Festival, so it’s possible to find a minor call-out to that here. I’m not entirely sure what she really is. Possibly some kind of octopus. Definitely not a librarian, anyway.

And what sort of library does a fake librarian tend? Not a good one. I’ve tried to make an extreme contrast to the temple-of-knowledge atmosphere of the university library in Anchorhead, and I’m a little worried that actual librarians will take offense at the result. Even the grimoire, the one useful book in the entire place, is the work of a crackpot.

The title of the grimoire, De Vermibus Laceris, literally “of cut worms”, is based on the name “Verlac” from Anchorhead, by way of De Vermis Mysteriis from Cthulhu Mythos lore. Thanks to Emily Short for help with the Latin.

Yes, there really was a major earthquake in New Hampshire, estimated magnitude 6.5-7.0, the same year that the Massachusetts Bay Colony got its first printing press. This is the sort of coincidence that isn’t even really a coincidence; it’s just two completely unrelated facts, and I’m engaging in a sort of sleight of hand when I imply a connection.

Room tested by Chris Conley, Michael Fessler, Jeremy Freese, Josh Giesbrecht, Lucian, Daniel Ravipinto, Ivan Roth, Andrew Schultz, Sean M. Shore, @ToffleToft, and Greg Travis.

Players will also be interested to learn that-"

Hopefully the source code will similarly tell us what we might also be interested to learn!

Looks like @Draconis gets full marks for his Latin work here, down to spotting the Verlac connection. Nicely done!

>push button
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "?testing, one two three. Hi there! I’m Jenni Polodna. Cragne Manor was originally my idea, then Ryan Veeder created the Google forms and blog announcements required to make it a Thing We Were Actually Doing For Real, which either makes him the Romy to my Michelle (as in, he invented Post-Its and I made them yellow) or the other way around. (We’ve discussed this but nothing was ever solidified.)

My room is loosely based on the time I went to the eastern shore of Maryland with my ex over Christmas and his family told me stories about everything that had happened to everyone on the eastern shore of Maryland, which mostly ended with “And then it burned down.”

“You mean the gas station over by the bike shop, the one that burned down?” someone would ask. “No, I mean the gas station that was over by Linda’s diner before THAT burned down,” someone else would respond. “Oh, how’s Linda doing?” “She burned down.” I swear I’m only exaggerating a little bit. (Linda is fine.)

Very much thanks to my beta testers: Andrew Schultz, Buster Hudson, Chris Jones, Hanon Ondricek, Jeremy Freese, Katherine Morayati, Lucian Smith, Q. Pheevr; and to my weiner-tester, Matt Weiner. “Paradoxically nearby to everything” line stolen from Carl Muckenhoupt. “Squahonomie” is pronounced “sk’-NOH-mee.” Thanks a bunch, and enjoy your stay in Cragne?"

I like that in this thread, we were only four years late to the party with our weiner-jokes. Also, I have relatives who live in Maryland, and based on conversation with them what Jenni says of the Eastern Shore is if anything understated (they live in Annapolis and have experienced very little in the way of arson, thankfully).

Town square, Backwater, VT (Marco Innocenti)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "?the billboard (“Anchorhead tribute band looking for a singer!”), something popped in me.

Anchorhead is, by far, my preferred Interactive Fiction game of all times: Photopia made me cry; Spider and Web had the best A-HA! moment; One Eye Open made me become an IF writer, somehow; and all those pre-Infocom era games – The Questprobes, The Hobbit; the lovely Gruds in Space – clung to my soul in a way only the things you happen to witness when you’re pre-teen succeed in doing… still, not a single one of those I loved the way I loved the masterpiece by Mike Gentry.

I’m not going to write an essay on Anchorhead. Not here, not now… and probably I never will. Let it just be known that the atmosphere and the (incredibly convoluted, sometimes) puzzles – adding to the three-days/three-acts theatrical marvel – have been the peak of interactive storytelling I’m trying to replicate since forever. As Watchmen by Alan Moore sculpted my writing nerve, Anchorhead represented everything I wanted to see (and live) in a game.

So, I jumped on board.

Fortunately for you, the Player, I’m not ‘the’ singer, in this gig, but happen to be part of a family that counts more than 85 people. Because, you know, as usual: life kept getting in da way, and so did my family, coming back to town before I finished and requesting my time every other second. Also: I didn’t realize how much effort a single room can take when trying to be on par with the marvelous people I’m working with. My room is simple – and contains an incredibly convoluted puzzle (I’m more of a story-driven writer) – still, it is here. I dedicated all my guts to it and, although I know it deserves a large post-release remake, I’m happy with it. I hope you will be happy too.

Thanks to Jenni and Ryan for this thing, for accepting me on this trip, and for letting me make a game with?"

You let go of the button, ending the transmission, and you squeeze your long-suffering hand to alleviate a little bit of the pain. How much more of this can your poor muscles endure?

Aww, I really dig this enthusiastic ode to Marco’s inspirations (and at the same time, I also really enjoy the subtle shade that Jenni and/or Ryan is throwing on the folks who write really long commentary bits). This was another puzzle I liked quite a bit, actually – it seems really complicated at first, but snaps into place really nicely, with a cool aha moment.

Drinking Fountain (Lucian Smith)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-for this room was “public drinking fountain” and I knew I wanted to have stuff going on during the rest of the game, like I did in IF Whispers 3. So that’s where this started! I had a vague idea of “a ghost that follows you around”, and talking with the organizers, they liked that idea, so I went with that. They put me on the “library book” puzzle track, so connecting my ghost with library books seemed apropos. Then the “public drinking fountain” prompt made me think of the “whites only” and “colored” drinking fountains, and “racism” seemed a fitting theme for an “uncovering old horrors” type of game. I did a search for “the KKK in Vermont in the 20s”, and found that there were indeed a few years in there where the KKK managed to successfully establish themselves in some areas. I figured Backwater was the perfect place for that to happen, and from there, it was just a matter of getting everything lined up and telling a coherent story–and of writing some perky cluelessly-racist prose. Which was, with any luck, as uncomfortable to read as it was-”

Cool to see the development of the idea, here – I feel bad for caviling about the history behind the segregated drinking fountain when I first came across it, since Lucian clearly did the research! And yeah, unlike the original, Confederate-irredentist incarnation, the 20’s KKK was as much a Northern and Midwestern concern as it was a creature of the South, its re-founding largely sparked as I understand it by the nation-wide craze for Birth of a Nation.

Under the Bridge (Tenth)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-advertised, I am bad at managing time, over-ambitious with features. I also completely changed the direction and solution of my room during the final weekend, after not being satisfied with how the puzzle was going (or how it tied into the Venus track) - I won’t spoil anything, but you were originally going to have a conversation with an NPC using the payphone. The phone is still there (as it should be, after all the time I sunk into it), but it now combines with my original idea for the Venus track puzzle. Anyway, the intention is for the room to be evocative, creepy, and just interactive enough to “sell” you on the idea. It’s not really intended to be much of a puzzle (unless you didn’t live through the 80s and 90s - then you might need to google some stuff). Anyway, thanks to Ryan and Jenni for their infinite patience, everyone on the Cragne Manor slack for their help and support, especially MattW, and to EmilyGhost for helping me come up with even more 90s junk to write on the side of an imaginary payphone. I hope it’s not a total-”

This is another room I found evocative and fun to engage with – admittedly, I’m of exactly the right generation to appreciate the references – I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that it was such a late-in-the-day scramble to get it done!

(Stopping here, we’ll do tunnels plus the church in the next bit)

6 Likes

(Bonus Chapter the First, still going)

Subterranean tunnel (Drew M)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-my parlor!

It’s been a loooong time since I’ve touched an Inform game and I wanted something relatively simple that I could build on. According to what I have read off of WebMD, one of the top fears people have is fear of the dark, which seemed a good topic for a scary room. It has nothing at all to do with me being blind and wanting to make others share in my misery. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I also added bugs, for flavor (fun fact: ants are peppery!) The rationale for this was farely simple: they scare the shit out of me.

The third great fear I wished to include was the fear of public speaking. Regretfully, I ran out of time before I could implement the insects transforming into angry members of the Washington D.C. press core and demanding to know if there was any collusion? So instead you get this lame amalgummation of theDeadMan and the Sleepless.

Hope you enjoyed my room! If you’d like to check out my other work, I also wrote the Introcomp game Obituary. If you’d like to drop me a line, email drew@trioptimum.com. Thanks for-"

Ha, I love the idea that this room is about running down the most common fears! And it’s funny, I don’t think I would have guessed the author was sightless but the focus on darkness retroactively makes even more sense.

Technically we should do Narrow Straits later, but I put it on the west side of the map so let’s do it now so I don’t forget:

Narrow Straits (Mathbrush)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "?I were you, I’d try reclosing the crypt, typing a verb wrong, typing a noun wrong, jumping, waking up, and anything else you feel like.

There are no hidden puzzles. There is one death.

I specifically asked to have a puzzleless room that was like a sewer underground. Which is what I–"

Another commentary bit that’s like an AMUSING list. We tried some of these already, including just now, off camera:

>eat library
You can’t see that. Or can you? The smell is getting to you.

And of course we’ve seen the death. What about the other ones?

>close crypt
You cannot undo what you have done.

Oh yeah?

>undo
Narrow Straits (Mathbrush)
[Previous turn undone.]

Boom! I am the Great Gatsby of IF protagonists.

(That’s a reference to the “can’t repeat the past? Of course you can!” line though I suppose it also works on the boats against the current line from the end too)

>jump
You try to jump, but your feet break through the crust below you and into the underlying slime. You extract yourself.

>wake
You rouse yourself from your dream. In your dream, you were in a dank, narrow tunnel, filled with foul slime. In your waking life, you are as well. Is there any difference?

Fun!

Tunnel Entrance (Grueslayer)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “?“Baf” Muckenhoupt and Roberto Colnaghi. A huge, dead serious, amaranthine thanks to them. No good game can exist without dedicated testers. Which does not mean this room is good, in fact I ran out of time when trying to fix the bugs Carl and Roberto found. Lebbe-”

I don’t think I remember finding any bugs here? This was overall a room I enjoyed, though it did require some very careful examination to progress. (Trying the magic words or the walkie-talkie in the small chamber sub-location doesn’t give different results, by the by).

Church Office (Llew Mason)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-first attempt at interactive fiction. This room was tested with the help of Roberto Colnaghi, Chandler Groover, Savina Mason, Sean Shore, and Petter Sjölund.”

This was a good first attempt, I think – the puzzle was rather easy, but a well-implemented classic, and the ancillary backstory was well-written.

Chapel (s. hammack) [Score: 1]

>xyzzy
Gesundheit.

Ha!

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-I was working on this room, my cat got a bowel obstruction that almost killed him and I had to spend $6,000 on surgery to save him, then spend the next two weeks making sure he didn’t tear his stitches while he recovered. After that, I entered crunch for the game I was working on at my day job (well, okay, I say crunch, but I was working reasonable hours; however, it was stressful enough that the last thing I wanted to do when I came home was work on another damn adventure game). I say this not as an excuse, but simply to help you understand the state of mind that resulted in this…-”

Oh, geez, that is a series of really tough events! Again, I didn’t at all pick up on the room feeling rushed or buggy; shows you never can tell what’s going on in an author’s life from their work, I suppose.

Narthex (Hanon Ondricek)

>xyzzy
A hollow voice says “ah’legeth…”

Given what Hanon shared above, I’m wondering if that’s a R’leyh-ese translation of “plugh”?

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-to the Narthex! If I understand correctly, it’s behind a locked door in either direction, so congratulations for making it here…however you manged to do it! I had to look up “narthex” so that was the first thing I did - I made the room name change after Naomi learns what it means.

Ryan said we didn’t have to go crazy in our rooms if we didn’t want to, so I envisioned doing a quick and easy, atmospherically appealing room about the subtle creeping dread of objects vanishing and reappearing. It was going to take a good hour to write, maybe two if I wanted to get fancy, and not take too much time from the other project I was working on.

Then I got my assignment, and EVERYTHING CHANGED.

Sorry Ryan and Jenni, for (compiles to check) the 16697-word source text in a world with 13 rooms and 73 things. Only five of those are my added rooms, I swear.

I put a commentary in each location. If there’s not, then Ryan or Jenni may have put their individual feet down on not increasing the PROP_TABLE_SIZE or the MAX_DESCRIPTIVE_FOODLUMS or someothersuch limit in Inform 7.

*** Hi, this is Jenni speaking. We did include every single one of Hanon’s room commentaries but if you’re playing his room for the first time you should be aware that they’re VERY SPOILERY and you might want to make a save, play through, then come back and read the commentary. Okay, here’s Hanon back. ***

Thank you, testers: Andrew Schultz, Jeremy Freese, Mike Spivey, Rachel Spitler, Eric W. Brown, Lucian Smith, Christopher Conley. Special thanks to Andrew Plotkin and everyone on the #Slack community for tech help, support, and fungal bloom jokes. Also thanks Ryan and Jenni for letting us do this crazy-"

You let go of the button, ending the transmission, and you squeeze your long-suffering hand to alleviate a little bit of the pain. How much more of this can your poor muscles endure?

Why am I not surprised that Hanon’s room had a massive bout of scope creep?

We’ve got a bit of a dilemma here since most of those extra rooms are inaccessible now that I’ve completed the sequence, and I can’t just go back and load a save since I did the church well before I made it to the attic. Fortunately, Hanon’s source code is in Zarf’s repository, so I’m just going to zip over there and paste in the commentary so we can all check it out with a minimum of extra work:

Here’s the restroom, which we can swing by:

You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-follow the Veeder Credo of not describing superfluous things that the player didn’t need to worry about, but a lot of more stuff ended up in here because players always want to try to flushing the-”

Indeed, that’s the curse of IF bathrooms (and the curse of IF kitchens, twice-over).

Here’s the past-restroom:

"I decided to mashup Carrie and Heathers. The first reader I showed this scene to said the nun wasn’t severe enough. I was intending to use her to take away stray objects from the player as a ghost, but that ended up not happening.

I used an online R’lyeh generator (R'Lyehian Translator ― LingoJam) but I couldn’t find a reverse R’lyeah to English translator so I don’t know how grammatical it is! Jessica’s line is basically ‘By the power of Vaadignephod, lord over the (Earth?) city of Black Water, Vermont!’ Thelma’s babble is something like ‘My head is broken, and I will never be the same.’"

That line from Thelma has a certain melancholy to it that I really like.

Now that I’ve got the translator link, it turns out that “ah’legeth” isn’t “plugh”, it’s more like – “is ignorance” is the best I can come up with. Huh.

Here’s the past-narthex:

"I was pretty happy with the nearly-all-female cast of 12 Angry Men on the poster and the obnoxious choir rehearsal. This room is probably the simplest, mainly containing the backdrop with the black tile to shuttle the library book to Naomi in the future and effectively rescue it from the Harvest Dance Inferno incident. The Backwater Public Library has been waiting for this book a while and the late fees are probably going to be astronomical. Sorry, Naomi!

My conceit for why the book wasn’t there before is originally Brandon never met Jessica and jumped from the bell tower to sacrifice himself to become a vessel for Vaadignephod. He mangled his body on the parking lot so badly that V manipulates Naomi to control Jessica to give Brandon a a more appropriate method of death they could inhabit a vessel with less blunt trauma and broken bones."

…that is one convoluted plan! It also points to weird, causality-violating timey-wimey shenanigans and Big V having an agenda for Nitocris, so I feel like it ties in well with some of the more fun (semi-manufactured) themes of the playthrough.

Past-hallway next:

This was going to be so long and complicated originally. In my original scheme Sister Mary confronted Brandon and Jessica together, and the player was going to go back to Naomi and I was going to have to find another piece of something to wear to get back. Originally Brandon asked Jessica to the prom immediately and then asked her for the book. Reversing this worked better and eliminated a superfluous time-shift. Sister Mary Marcia is totally onto Brandon’s diabolical plans and the unearthly voices have to employ Jessica to foil her attempts to stop him. The line ‘vulgtmoth shuggoth marcia! ahf’ ah ahmgn’ghft bthnk Iiahe ymg’ ph’nglui ah agl fahf n’ghft Iiahe n’ghftoggn’thor, vermont?’ means (holy woman Marcia! what is shining body as you doing in place this dark as Black-Water, Vermont?) I love the idea that Sister Marcia and Vaadignephod have a past. ‘Backwater’ didnt have a R’lyeh equivalent, so I had Vaadignephod call it ‘black water’ sort of how people revert to their native pronunciations despite speaking another language. Or the way nobody not from your hometown ever can pronounce the name of your hometown correctly."

I dunno, I feel like folks mostly do OK with “Port Washington.” Anyway, I think the tighter version we wound up with works well.

Finally, here’s the library:

"The greenish-tome is a red herring. The book says something like ‘In time child we will be together…’

When I was in fourth and fifth and sixth grade, I read all the Judy Blume books in the school library including Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret like four times. At the time I thought nothing of it–I really liked Judy Blume and read a book a day, but who knows what the public-school librarian must have thought of this nine-through-eleven year old boy repeatedly checking out a book that frankly discusses menstruation. To her and the whole school’s credit, nothing was ever said and I was never challenged nor made to feel embarrased about doing so. Maybe it’s because I voraciously read all that they shelved…Superfudge; Blubber; Freckle Juice; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing… Mind you, I had also read The Shining and the non-boring sections of The Exorcist before fourth grade. Yes, I was a weird kid who had nightmares."

I love everything about this story – Hanon, you were one cool kid!

OK, moving on!

Steeple (Michael D. Hilborn)

>xyzzy
A hollow voice says: “Copper, silver, gold, gold, silver.”

Oh, hey! That must be a new combo for the ropes, producing a different star sign! All three magic words give this response, too. When we try it out, here’s what we get:

>ring silver
(the rope of silver strands)
The rope resists your efforts at first, then relents with a creak. A thunderous yet lonely peal of a bell reverberates throughout the steeple.

A hollow voice booms: “Z!”

>read celestial tome
Oddly, the pages seemed to have changed or turned by themselves, for you are certain you are looking at a series of charts and signs that are different than before. The corpse points to one drawing in particular:

*  *  *  *  
      *  
   *  
*  *  *  *  

Underneath, in elegant handwriting, is written:

(The astrological sign is the Adept in stasis opposing the Nemesis.)

…huh. That sure seems like it means something further – I try waiting a couple times, since what else does “Z” mean? – but nothing happens. Wonder if I’m missing something?

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-what Michael D. Hilborn writes in the comments of his code:

The leads of Cragne Manor, Ryan and Jenni, decided to incorporate a global Easter egg in the game: The ability for authors to include room commentary. How the commentary gets activated is, at the moment, a huge secret, so I’m tempting fate with three BIG assumptions. The first assumption is that the commentary of a room can only be seen within the room itself; second assumption: the commentary will invoke a “say” command that reads off the commentary of the room; third assumption: this commentary code won’t conflict with any commentary code that Ryan and Jenni write.

"Why I chose to go this route, I don’t know. Just seemed to be the right thing to do. But since Ryan and Jenni incorporated this feature into the game, I blame them.

Well, Michael, your first assumption is pretty safe, your second assumption is basically reasonable but not entirely correct, and your third assumption does indeed tempt fate, and beyond being a BIG assumption is actually completely baseless and profoundly foolhardy. Also: I don’t know what “since Ryan and Jenni incorporated this feature, I blame them” is supposed to mean. We didn’t decide that you should add a bunch of extra mechanics to your commentary.

But since something like 13% of Michael’s code has to do with his unauthorized hacking of the commentary system, I guess we’ll make it work. Just?"

With a pop, a gnome appears, carrying a small notebook. He looks up at you, and adjusts his red cap. “Ah, good, good, I was wondering when I might get a chance to make an appearance in this game. I am the gnome of commentary and I will be your guide to all the things you didn’t want to know about this particular room. Just ask me about an object from this room–or examine something or show me something–and I’ll comment on it. . . assuming it warrants a comment. You can also ask me about the AUTHOR or BETA TESTERS.”

Oh, wow! This is really going well above and beyond!

>x gnome
A small gnome with a pair of spectacles resting upon his pointed nose and wearing a red cap. He carries a small notebook.

The gnome places a hand to his heart. “Me? Why, I’m the gnome of commentary, hired to give little tidbits of information about the implementation of this room. Sadly, I’m one of the more complex objects in here.” He nudges you. “A little too much effort for an easter egg, in my humble opinion.”

I mean you said it, not me.

>ask gnome about author
“He considers himself an interactive fiction enthusiastic,” says the gnome. "Has been since the age of ten when he first played “Zork.” He’s only published one major work, “The Life (and Deaths) of Doctor M,” and a couple shorts for the tribute album “Apollo 18+20.”

>ask gnome about beta testers
The gnome flips through his notebook. “Ah, yes, the author would like to thank the following folks for their remarkable endurance and patience while testing this room: Greg Frost, Michael Lin, Hanon Ondricek, and Andrew Schultz.”

Nice way of getting those bits of into into the game! Let’s try looking at the stuff here:

>show celestial to gnome
The gnome taps the tome. “An important part of the puzzle. The corpse points to the name of the star alignment that one sees when examining the ceiling of the steeple. If you ring the bells in the proper order, you can learn the name of the true sign of Peter Cragne.”

We figured all that out, of course.

>ask gnome about xyzzy
“A magic word,” says the gnome. “I wonder what star pattern they might allude to. . . and what that pattern means. . .” He winks.

Yeah, this definitely makes it seem like there’s something further to do here – any readers have ideas? ASK GNOME ABOUT Z doesn’t do anything, nor do additional WAITs now that he’s here.

>ask gnome about journal
(the worn, leather-bound journal)
“The journal tells the story of that poor soul over there,” says the gnome, pointing at the corpse. “The style of language within the journal is inspired by the way that gargoyles speak in ‘Ultima VI: The False Prophet.’ The author of this room thought it might add a little flavor, for better or worse.”

Oh man, that is a very specific inspiration (the gargoyles in Ultima speak completely in imperatives, as I recall, which works better than you’d think!)

>ask gnome about bells
“Although the player can’t see the bells,” says the gnome, “they hopefully will deduce that there is one of gold, one of silver, one of copper, and one of iron up there.”

>ask gnome about rafters
“The rafters and their positions play an important role in deciphering the room’s main puzzle,” says the gnome. “Every time a bell is rung by pulling a rope, the rafters shift position, causing a different pattern of moon- and starlight to filter through the steeple’s ceiling. The goal of the puzzle is to find the right pattern, the pattern that corresponds to the true astrology sign of Peter Cragne.”

>ask gnome about arches
The gnome clears his throat. “Yes, erm, the arches. Not much to them. There was thought of using them for a puzzle, but it would have required six more additional objects and disambiguations between them. The goal of this room was to keep the overall puzzle as simple as possible.”

>ask gnome about moons
“Note that the phases of the two moons mimic the iconography of the library’s insignia,” says the gnome. “There is also an eye and a book in the room, just like there is in the library insignia.” The gnome shrugs. “Just a little detail, I guess.”

>ask gnome about mass
The gnome shakes his head. “Poor soul. His story is told in the journal lying next to him. His presence was inspired by the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame.’”

We twigged to all this, but it was cool detail to notice.

>ask gnome about sky
(the alien sky)
“Ah,” says the gnome. “The sky, a hint that the church steeple resides in a realm or dimension outside of Backwater, Vermont, the earthly home of Cragne Manor. The author implemented this room completely unaware of other rooms, so it seemed fitting that this room exist in a different world than the rest of the game.”

That’s kind of ironic, given that we wound up drawing connections with other parts of the game (like the sea-monster and the bridge).

>ask gnome about landscape
The gnome squints toward the landscape. “Hard to say what lurks beyond those clouds, but if you examine them enough, you’ll get hints of what is going on down there.”

Not sure what this means – the description doesn’t change no matter how many times I try this:

>x clouds
(the sea of clouds)
The steeple must rise higher than you think, for it penetrates a cloud bank that stretches to the horizon, and most likely beyond. As calm as the sea on a breezeless day, the clouds ripple with a hazy, pale green glow. Occasionally, part of the surface erupts in a silent flash of light.

The gnome squints toward the landscape. “Hard to say what lurks beyond those clouds, but if you examine them enough, you’ll get hints of what is going on down there.”

Could be this is because we’ve already seen the sea monster?

>ask gnome about nasty-looking key
“I have no idea what door that opens,” admits the gnome. “The door (or doors, for all I know) are implemented elsewhere in the game.”

I think that’s about all that’s here, or was here:

>d
“Very well, if you no longer need me. . .” The gnome bows, then disappears with a poof.

Man, the church has some great commentary to go along with its great rooms.

Let’s wrap up with the bridge, and pick up next time in East Backwater:

Bridge (Daniel Stelzer and Jemma Briggeman)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-was a collaboration: Daniel Stelzer, the programmer, handled the implementation, while Jemma Briggeman, the English major, handled the writing. The idea of climbing down the rope and entering the skeleton to extract the bones was Daniel’s (as he apparently has a thing for rope puzzles in IF), while the plants, animals, sculpture, and details of the environment were Jemma’s. All bugs are Daniel’s fault, all typos are Jemma’s. (Thanks also to our boyfriend Azri Aziz for testing, along with Andrew Schultz, Jenni Polodna, and Chris Conley! And-”

Well, I didn’t notice any bugs, nor any typos, so I’d say you both did a good job – and the puzzle mechanics and flora/fauna atmospherics meshed well together, so this definitely counts as a successful collaboration.

(To be continued, probably tomorrow – we’re about halfway done so lots more to come)

6 Likes

Well now the Bridge commentary seems so tiny by comparison! :stuck_out_tongue: Though I can tell you, nothing got cut off with that final “and-”. The organizers added that in to keep the feeling of getting a snippet from the middle of the transmission, without removing the names of any of the testers (since they came right at the end of our commentary). Which is much appreciated!

The strange environment comes from locking down the broad strokes of what we wanted to do with our room before talking to anyone on Slack, and then deciding to keep it that way after learning that the intent was probably more “day one of Anchorhead” than “day four of Anchorhead”. And seeing the Steeple, I’m glad we weren’t the only ones! (In our defense, Anchorhead has two very important bridges in it…)

Speaking of the Steeple, I’m also curious about the easter egg there. The star sign shifted to look like a “Z”, but if waiting didn’t do anything…maybe pull the gold rope again? Copper-silver-gold-gold-silver = X-Y-Z-Z-Y?

4 Likes

(One of the classic responses when you type XYZZY into an Infocom game is “A hollow voice says ‘fool…’”)

5 Likes

Ah, now that’s a clever idea! I went back to the Steeple and put in the combo again, but something different happened this time when I hit the final silver pull:

> pull silver
(the rope of silver strands)
The rope resists your efforts at first, then relents with a creak. A thunderous yet
lonely peal of a bell reverberates throughout the steeple.

A hollow voice booms: “Z!”

But pulling the gold rope after that didn’t do anything new, just changed the sign to the Turncoat in motion under the Abyss. So we’re still missing something, I fear.

Hah, that’s right – OK, now I’m quite amused at my little attempt at a literal reverse-translation.

1 Like

(Bonus Chapter the First, the marathon continues)

Here we are in East Backwater!

Outside Pub (Jason Lautzenheiser)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-is my small contribution to Cragne Manor. This is my first piece of I7 in a few years as most of my time has been spent on enhancing Trizbort (shameless plug).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve-"

That’s a shameless plug, sure, but I spent this entire update with my Trizbort map in a window right next to my interpreter, which made ensuring I didn’t miss a room super easy. Trizbort – for all your mapping needs!

The Invisible Worm (Sam Kabo Ashwell)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-a while back, when I was casting players in a LARP, we’d give them a whole bunch of survey questions and hassle them to fill them out. But when we got down to it, we’d usually ignore half the survey questions and be like “buddy, we know you, and we know you’d be great as a vampire queen who flirts with everyone.” I feel like this is basically how I ended up with the pub room.

The actual puzzle is very simple, and the great majority of the work went into procedural generation of rural gossip, because that’s what amuses me at the moment.

Testing: Jacqueline Ashwell, Katherine Morayati.

I hope you won’t mind-"

Oh man, the first part of that resonates with me from running tabletop roleplaying games, because yeah, there were certain players where I’d be like completely sure what kinds of characters they would, or should, play, and then I think of my characters from when I was playing, not running, who to a fault were feckless and/or sinister smart-alecs, and blush.

As to the implementation priorities here, yeah, these sound right to me – the Random Puritan Name Generator alone was a highlight.

Backwater Jail (Marshal Tenner Winter)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-room to be much better. I wanted the puzzle to be funner and more intricate. But it wasn’t in the stars for it to happen, I guess. I could go into details, hoping to garner sympathy, but I’ll spare you. Suffice to say, I hate my offering and the hours I was planning to devote to it were robbed from me one aggravating incident after another. Anyway, I hope you like my unfun diarrhea room.

I at least did get enough time to send this to a long-time beta-tester collaborator of mine and he ran through it a few times to at least ensure it’s not a broken pile of garbage. He found it was, indeed a pile of garbage, but at least you should be able to properly get through it. That tester is “Radical” Al Golden. Special thanks to Hanon Ondricek as well, for his advice and-"

…I have to say, I didn’t really wind up enjoying this room and found some of the elements pretty unpleasant, but it’s sad to see an author feeling this bad about their work.

Hillside Path (Jack Welch)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "?Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman

Thanks first of all to Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna for giving so many IF authors a chance to work together on this project. The best part of IF is the community and we all had a blast chatting with each other about everything from coding compliance to fungating masses while we were writing. We want to acknowledge just how huge a task R&J took on in not only trying to compile code coming from 85 different directions, but in herding us cats.

Of course, none of us would have been doing this at all had Michael S. Gentry not written Anchorhead in 1998 – a foundational game, which we both enjoyed and were only too happy to have a chance to emulate.

As the time of writing this, as you can imagine, the deadline is a few hours away and the bug list still needs some swatting, so commentary here will be brief, but I’m sure we will add some additional commentary online. Interactive Fiction Professors of the 24th Century will probably have to pull this from the planetary cybermind, but for now, the URL is Some Thoughts About Cragne Manor – Dhakajack. But in case the internet evaporates, here are, at least, some initial thoughts about where our two rooms came from.

Having worked together on a number of IF projects, like Rover’s Day Out and Hoosegow, and some collaborative community projects like Speed-IFs (Lobsters on a Plane) and Narrow Your Eyes for the TMBG Apollo 18 20th Anniversary game, we asked R&J if we could have two rooms, but collaborate on plot. And they said yes.

So we did. The nature of the overall project meant that authors had to more or less isolate their rooms from each other to assure the whole thing would compile reasonably, so we figured that the best way to collaborate between to separate rooms without having items floatings around in circulation would be to focus just on conversation. We’ve always enjoyed writing conversation and have tried to make NPCs interesting, but we’ve never really buckled down and used any of the Inform conversation extensions. So, at the start of the project, we asked to include a conversation extension, and with some assistance from Zarf, R&J agreed to include a modified version of Eric Eve’s Conversation framework.

Our task then was to come up with a plot that would involve an NPC in each room and a story that would bridge them together. We thought the player should have to interact with them a few times each so they could gradually reveal the story, but didn’t want to force the player to spend too much time schlepping back and forth, so we limited it to three interactions with each character and added a spell to magically hop back and forth between the locations.

As for inspiration, most of it came from the original Anchorhead, but other bits were drawn from actual history. Most of the names and events in the game are real. As Christabell mentions, she’s originally from Lyn, Massachusetts, which became known as Saugus. If that name is familiar, it’s a homage to the long-running Halloween literary competition run by that town, which has always included interactive fiction. Here’s one more ghost story to add to that collection.

Hope you enjoy it – and remember, hints are enabled in our rooms for every scene, just type-"

You let go of the button, ending the transmission, and you squeeze your long-suffering hand to alleviate a little bit of the pain. How much more of this can your poor muscles endure?

One of my favorite parts of doing this commentary update is seeing how 100% on-brand everyone is in their commentary, and of course, true to form, Jack and Ben are interesting, provide a cool historical perspective, and write a ton of words. Substantively, this is mostly stuff we figured out as we played – confirmation of the Saugus connection is nice – but wow, if you click through that link, there’s not only an even more worked-out design diary, but also a link to a Github repository that includes not just the source code for the rooms, but also a 20-page design doc, and what appears to be a bunch of the communication the organizers sent to the contributors, including guidelines on the puzzle tracks, a sample Anchorhead transcript, and even a memo that seems to suggest that some contributors didn’t send in real Inform 7 code, with the organizers taking their like pseudocode and writing it up themselves??? My mind is blown.

I feel like going through all that stuff in detail might be a bit too much of a peek behind the curtain, but for readers who are so inclined, I wanted to flag that that stuff is there. And when I turn to source code in the next bonus update, I’ll be sure to include these rooms too.

Front Walk (Matt Weiner)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-is a simple transitional room. For technical reasons, the porch had to be a separate room in order to be able to contain the front door.

The one notable object in the room is the harvest manikin. Manikins like this can be found in Vermont around Halloween, eerie little miniature Wicker Men. The largest concentration of them seems to be in Shelburne, a town that is–well, let’s say not exactly full of New England Gothic atmosphere; the most sinister thing about it is that somehow I’ve never been able to find anything about these manikins on the Internet. The store names were inspired by a little plaza that once contained The Flying Pig (a lovely bookstore), The Bearded Frog, and Jamie Two-Coats. I changed the reference to Stowe because few people have probably heard of Shelburne.

Thanks to YerrikTRB, Petter Sjölund, Andrew Schultz, and Chandler Groover for testing. Additionally I’d-"

As someone who’s lived in New Hampshire, I’ve heard of Stowe but not Shelbourne so points to Matt on that.

There’s further commentary if we pop into the mudroom portion of this room:

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-mudroom is a common sight in Vermont houses, full of coats, boots, and miscellaneous clutter. Two ancient interactive fiction tropes find a natural home here. The cloak is a tribute to Cloak of Darkness, a short game by Roger Firth that has been implemented in many IF languages as a test case. The keyhole with the key you can push out on the other side goes back at least to Zork II in games, and I believe at least to Enid Blyton’s novels before that. In this porch the key is not in the lock, but someone made a game try at doing the trick with the welcome mat before giving up and forgetting their eldritch cloak behind them.

My idea was originally that some crucial information would be written on a piece of paper, to be found in the boot under the cloak. Then the people who were implementing the next puzzle told me that what they needed was a teapot. So I stuck the teapot in plain sight–this isn’t at all out of character for a mudroom–and put a silly joke in the boot.

The cluttered porch with luck provides a bit of atmosphere and experiential interactions in between the puzzles. Thanks to YerrikTRB, Petter Sjölund, Andrew Schultz, and Chandler Groover for testing. Mudroom mudroom?"

Ha, I caught the Cloak of Darkness reference, but I hadn’t realized that’s what was going on with the keyhole. I did enjoy getting to see a mudroom – many of the houses I lived in or visited when I was young had them, but much like basements, they’re thin on the ground in Southern California (we have mud slides, though…)

Greenhouse (Petter Sjölund)

>xyzzy
This is not Colossal Cave.

True!

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-in this project just to see if I had it in me to create a finished piece of interactive fiction. Well, I didn’t drop out at least.

The main inspiration was some pictures I found of the ruins on Ross Island. I also looked at real-world greenhouses, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, but very little of that actually ended up in the game. Neither the wonders of complex architecture or the joy of walking among a huge variety of plants are easy to capture in writing. At first, I wanted it to be more of a straight-faced mood piece, but there is something about classic parser interactive fiction and its puzzles that inevitably pushes toward silliness.

A big thanks to everyone involved, and a special thanks to my testers: Austin Auclair, Sanna Borell, Chandler Groover, Llew Mason, Andrew Schultz, Sean M. Shore, Lucian Smith, Matt Weiner, and Caleb Wilson. And another special thanks to you, the-"

I’m familiar with the Ross Island in Antarctica, but from some googling there’s one in Oregon too and I’m guessing that’s the one we’re talking about here. I suppose I see the point that not a lot of detail on the garden environment comes through, but I’ve been to a couple such places so I guess I was drawing on those experiences as I pictured the room because I definitely felt like it was evocative.

The Shambolic Shack (Michael Fessler)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-draft of this room featured an array of bad-smelling objects, whose stinks needed to be neutralized one by one to enable the player to catch the subtle scent of the room’s goal. Fun, but fiddly. Then I realized: of course the Cragne gardener’s hobby is exotic lethal fungiculture. The new goal: to avoid the fateful notice that You have died in a horrible fungal bloom.. I had never worked with timed events in Inform 7 before, so was delighted to be discover I could write lines like “the glove-induced-horrible-fungal-bloom occurs in three turns from now”. The central puzzle of the room isn’t too cruel, I hope. But you may notice that, given time, fungus-tainted objects may have subtle yet insidious effects on nearby items. Beware.

Many thanks to the following intrepid testers: Caleb WIlson, Jeremy Freese, Andrew Schultz, Lucien Smith, Carl Muckenhoupt, Rafi Hyman-Fessler, and Tamar Hyman-Fessler. And a big shout-out to Jenni and Ryan for their initiative and organizational chops, and for getting me writing IF again for the first time in a decade and a-"

“Subtle” effects, really? That mildew stench took over my whole inventory in like five minutes so I’d hate to see what an obvious effect would look like!

There’s nothing else of interest in the Cragne environs, so let’s do the meatpacking plant before we enter the Manor iteself:

Outside the Plant (Chandler Groover)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-thing about this room (in the author’s opinion) is that you can solve its puzzle, in one turn, from anywhere in the game. Just say the unsayable name, and you’ve won! Unless you say it four times. Then you die.

Did you know you can touch the monster?

Thanks to Roberto Colnaghi, Sean M. Shore, Llew Mason, Petter Sjölund, Matt Weiner, Chris Conley, and Andrew Plotkin for beta-testing, and to you for?"

Oh, that’s cool re solving the puzzle and I think we did touch the monster, but what’s that about saying the name too many times?

>raeainrrat
The name is in your mind again. Once thought, it cannot be unthought, and now it lives under your skin. It slips right here, through a crack in your concentration. It requires pain to pronounce.

>g
Vowels burn in your brain. Consonants twist like thumbscrews. Blood leaks from your ears, dribbles down your nostrils, and your teeth begin to tremble like trees in a storm or deranged tuning-forks.

The name is close. The name is here. The name is on your tongue.

>g
Every pore in your flesh opens. Every molecule around you is a mouth. Every atom is a hole with little teeth, like human teeth, spinning in vicious circles. And every pore and every mouth and every hole is a sucker attached to a tremendous tentacle.

It rises, not from under you: from everywhere.

Its slime is the sky and its beak is the sun and its guts are the stars that have mapped every fate since the moment the universe cracked like an egg to be born. Your tongue contorts. It is a tentacle that slithers down your throat, and when it pulls you outside from inside, that is when you say the name.

That is what it takes to say the name.

*** RAEAINRRAT ***

Wow, now that’s a metal death!

The meatpacking plant (Kenneth Pedersen)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-very happy to be given this room, since I clearly remember encountering the slaughterhouse in Anchorhead. However, as an Inform newbie I will keep the puzzle of this room at a-”

A simple enough comment for a solid, simple room.

There’s nothing doing upstairs, so you know what that means!

Wrecked Bathroom of the Meatpacking Plant (Chris Jones)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-room is dedicated to every brave soul who has ever been killed by a horse in a bathroom, whether that horse had bones or not. And also to Clark Ashton Smith, he of weird tales and weirder cosmic fables across space and-”

Unlike the room itself, this is quite restrained! It does remind me that I haven’t read as much Clark Ashton Smith as I should – I’ve read a couple stories, but he’s got a reputation as the best prose stylist of that first generation of horror pulp writers.

The prefatory dedication makes me wonder how many folks it applies to, but a quick google is just popping up that old libel about Catherine the Great, so let’s move on.

(stop – Manor Time)

3 Likes

Honestly not sure on the prose, but for me he was the one best at creating lasting, vivid imagery. I can remember many Lovecraft plots and feelings but very few images (personally, at least) whereas the reverse is true for me of Smith. His work also more clearly influenced many of my favorite of the second/third generation writers like Vance (and by extension or directly things like D&D, or early Citadel Warhammer, that were my first gaming loves. D&D may be more Leiber and Lovecraft by volume, but Clark is still there in the Vancian bits, and Warhammer is almost all Smith’s in retrospect).

Also he was probably the most humorous and verbose (which is saying something) of the original Weird Tales crew and that seemed appropriate for some reason. EDIT: “Smith would never use a word when a paragraph would do”, quoth Locus editor Charles N. Brown in a particularly spicy review of the (unfortunately very racist) Zothique cycle.

6 Likes

(Bonus Chapter the Fifth, in to the Manor at last)

Foyer (Greg Frost)

>xyzzy
Nothing happens.

Huh, that’s weird – the default “what you did doesn’t make sense” response, as we’ve seen, is “That verb doesn’t work here, or, at least, not right now, but it might work somewhere later”, so XYZZY is implemented as an action, just with a rather killjoy response.

>plugh
A hollow voice says, “Yawn.”

Hey, finally a response for the other magic words (plover works the same)! That’s kind of exciting, even though again the specific action here won’t set the world on fire.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-signed on to the Anchorhead tribute for two reasons: first, because Anchorhead is a great game, and second, because I figured that contributing to the project would be a good way to get familiar with Inform 7. Third and bonus, it seemed like a way to have fun with cool people like Ryan, Jenni, et al.

One of the things that impressed me the most about Anchorhead was the simultaneous richness and efficiency of the description. Lovecraftian horror is difficult to do without the prose becoming a little overcooked. The style of golden age text adventures, on the other hand, tends toward the spare or even terse. Anchorhead seems to marry both of these techniques without difficulty, creating evocative scenes with a few well-described locations and objects. Making a tribute has been a gratifying and also humbling experience. I’ve learned some things about what makes the original so good, while also despairing of being able to do it justice.

This is the first project I have completed in Inform. Somewhat optimistically, I figured that I could complete my room while moving from California to Washington, starting a new job, wrangling a baby, learning Inform 7, and developing techniques for descriptive writing. In retrospect probably any two of those would have been feasible at maximum. I wrote this room in short sprints in between the above. A lot of credit for getting it finished at all goes to my wife, Kristin, who put up with me taking on this bizarre project at a totally inopportune time. She did the heavy lifting with the baby and also alpha tested the room. Dan Ravipinto and Andrew Schultz provided beta testing and valuable feedback to make the room playable.

The Foyer is loosely based on both the Foyer from Anchorhead and the John Strong Mansion in Addison, Vermont. The original idea for the room was to be a place that felt relatively innocuous, with details that changed subtly over time to become more unsettling. The changes would take place as the player revisited the room several times on the way to other horrors elsewhere. I figured it was something I could put together in a few hours.

Four weeks later, after writing descriptions and responses for every conceivable scenery object (e.g. “lick floor”) in an empty junction, I realized I had underestimated somewhat. It didn’t help that I learned how to work with tables solely to put together a way-too-complicated system for changing the time of day in the room, which didn’t actually do as much for the mood as I had thought it would. I think what I’ve learned here is that getting caught up in tiny implementation details can distract from work that serves the purpose of the story. That said, I’m happy to have been able to contribute to this project and look forward to playing-"

You let go of the button, ending the transmission, and you squeeze your long-suffering hand to alleviate a little bit of the pain. How much more of this can your poor muscles endure?

Having spent much of this year wrangling a baby and moving, I definitely relate to this! Once again, I think I unfortunately missed out on a key feature of a room, since I don’t really recall the change of day being that impactful (maybe on one of my cruises through I remember it saying it was night?) While the basic idea sounds cool, I think for a project like this where the rooms are all self-contained and the player’s taught to focus on the ones they haven’t solved yet, incidental scenery details are a hard sell. At any rate, this is another one with code in Zarf’s repository so we can check that system out next update.

Also:

> lick floor
That’s not a verb I recognize. Also, gross.

Yeah, Greg had definitely been wrangling a baby.

Gallery (YerrikTRB/Erica Newman)

>xyzzy
A word flies from your lips and is gone.

Once again, we get the same response to plugh and plover – it’s odd given how few rooms have implemented those that these two back-to-back rooms at the entrance to the Manor did so!

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-you to testers Jenni Polodna, Ryan Veeder, Jeremy Freese, Rachel Spitler, Matt Weiner, Buster Hudson, and Greg Frost. Extreme thank yous to Ryan Veeder, who, because this is my first IF, can make the claim–only at this moment–that he taught me everything I know (about Inform7), and to Jenni Polodna, may she forever remain spore-free.

There are some influences on my writing that are acknowledged in this room, such as the private reflections in the mirror shard. This idea originated in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. A fainting couch makes a brief appearance from another game; and a tuneful heart might reveal some humor influences, if the player cares to dig that deep.

I originally wanted this gallery to only exist as a gallery of paintings, as it was in the original Anchorhead. Because of some life events that occured this year, I found myself a bit haunted by scenes from my distant past, which evoke no nostalgia, but crowd their way in nonetheless. The crowded nonesense of the room is a nod to memories that can show up uninvited, and sometimes serve demonstrate that real horror is not what you imagine, but what is real to-"

Huh, that’s an interesting thematic note to the room, though again, given the anarchic nature of this project I think it’s hard for details like that to fully play out. This again suggests some stuff to try that I don’t think we got to in the original playthrough:

>look in shard
The shard is showing a private reflection of an idyllic landscape of rolling green hills under moonlight. Perhaps this reflection is meant to remain private. You look away.

Interesting! (I haven’t read the Nabokov this is riffing on, unfortunately).

>x couch
A fainting couch that looks like it could be from a museum.

Not ringing any bells here, either – does “a museum” mean it’s from like the Mulldoon Legacy? I’ve never gotten past the first couple rooms in that one.

I’m drawing a blank on the “tuneful heart” thing unfortunately.

The Music Room (Wade Clarke)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-everything in this multi-location room happens in a single Inform room. So it’s kind of like a magic trick that the player doesn’t know about (at least until they read this message) with the program transparently renaming the room, redressing the room and moving people in and out of view on the fly.

Andrew Schultz tested the music room in the couple of days before it was due to be handed in. He’s tested all my Inform games. I haven’t tested all of his because he’s more prolific than I am, and also because I’m not always the greatest at solving his word-"

I’m just competent enough with Inform to get how tricky that stage-managing must be, so it’s cool that Wade shared that implementation detail in the commentary.

Also, I don’t think I’ve acknowledged out loud how many of these tester thank-yous Andrew Schultz is mentioned in, but he definitely deserves some kudos. Heck, he tested one of my games so I can personally attest he’s great!

Court (Ryan Veeder)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-is said by men worthy of belief (though Allah’s knowledge is greater) that in the first days there was a king of the isles of Babylonia who called together his architects and his priests and bade them build him a labyrinth so confused and so subtle that the most prudent men would not venture to enter it, and those who did would lose their way. Most unseemly was the edifice that resulted, for it is the prerogative of God, not man, to strike confusion and inspire-”

This is a bit from Borges about the Tower of Babel – two very on-point reference points for Cragne Manor, of course!

Landing at the Bottom of Stairs (Mark Sample)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-you make a room called “Bottom of the Stairs” interesting? In “Anchorhead” the analogous room seems to be the foyer of the Verlac house. Foyers by definition are in-between spaces, the place you have to pass through to get to someplace more interesting. Nothing happens in the Foyer of “Anchorhead.” Your luggage is there, but you can’t do anything with it. The Foyer exists only as an atmospheric waypoint, establishing the house as dark, cramped, and isolating. With my “Bottom of the Stairs” I attempted to do something similar. This space is all about atmosphere. Special thanks to my play testers, Kari Kraus, Bethany Nowviskie, and Erin Templeton-”

Ha, it’s true, definitely “Bottom of the Stairs” is a tougher remit than the puzzle-suggesting bridges and thematically-evocative libraries. I did enjoy this little location, though, so I think mission accomplished.

Dining Room (Roberto Colnaghi)

>xyzzy
In Cragne Manor no one can hear you xyzzy.

That’s just about true – other than Carol and the annex librarian, both ghosts, and Michael Gentry’s self-insert, the place is deserted, despite many contributors making lots of references to many many relatives. I’m guessing that’s a combination of folks anchoring to Anchorhead (where the only NPC in the house is the husband, who of course is missing here) and the difficulty of implementing other characters, but it’s still an interesting coincidence!

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-I was thinking about how to implement a puzzleless junction room, the first idea I got was to make a dreamlike world, but then I thought that a sci-fi background would be more appropriate for a Lovecraftian vignette. So I decided to link the Cragne Manor theme to the chronovisor, a real-world Italian urban legend. The “Domenica del Corriere” really printed an article about the whole story, and the “chronovisor” even has a Wikipedia article. Who knows, maybe it’s waiting in a forgotten Vatican cellar… Anyway, it ends with an homage to Anchorhead, to wrap it up. My thanks go to Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna for letting a beginner like me contribute to this game, to Andrew Schultz, Chandler Groover, Sean M. Shore, Matteo Stucchi, Erika Redaelli, Caleb Wilson, Llew Mason and Chris Conley for testing, and to-”

In fact I read that same (well, a later version, probably) Wikipedia page when I discovered the chronovisor was a real (“real”) thing!

Sitting Room (Buster Hudson)

>xyzzy
There was no special response to xyzzy in Anchorhead, and in the same spirit, there shall be none here.

Can’t argue with that logic.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-room was written by Buster Hudson for the 20th anniversary of Anchorhead tribute, Cragne Manor. Thanks to my testers Andrew Schultz, Chris Conley, Mike Spivey, Jeremy Freese, Lucian Smith, and Hanon Ondricek. Special thanks to organizers Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna for their leadership and commitment to making the impossible possible. And of course, thanks to Mike Gentry for creating the fabulous game which we all love and play in dedication to the one true god and ender of worlds, Ialdabaoloth. All-”

A nice set of thanks. Actually, that reminds me, short of driving the archaeology student to murder, we haven’t taken ol’ Ialdy’s name in vain that much over the course of the game:

>ialdabaoloth
Suddenly Peter stands and approaches you. He slaps you hard across the face, knocking you to the ground. Then he walks off into the darkness. You stare after him for a while. When you finally turn around, you notice the gate is also gone.

*** You have lost everything ***

Er, what? From the reference to the gate, and Peter standing up, this seems like it should be set in the endgame. Actions are usually quite cabined but looks like this one slipped through as being universally-available.

I’ll break from my usual practice of passing silently over unresponsive locations to say that there’s nothing in the kitchen, which I was disappointed by – there was some neat writing here, including the spices and the recipes, and I would have liked to get some commentary.

Basement (Ivan Roth)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-room corresponds to a space in Anchorhead that’s basically empty, and only there for pacing purposes, so I had to get kind of creative.

If you enjoyed what these rooms were trying to do, with the books and stuff, you might like certain postmodern novels like “If on a winter’s night a traveler” by Italo Calvino, “The Crying of Lot 49” by Thomas Pynchon, or Roberto Bolaño’s “Nazi Literature in the Americas”. What I’m trying to say is, I was reading those books around the time I put this together.

Andrew Schultz helped playtest this game, which was helpful because he has a good eye for typos, and also because if he can’t solve a puzzle then it’s really egregiously broken. Actually, I’m not sure that he actually solved all the “puzzles” in this room, in the time he had to test this game. Andrew Schultz tested for a lot of people. He didn’t get his hands on the library book I think.

A lot of things in this game are references to other things, from historical personages and popular media to people I happen to know and obscure works I don’t expect anyone else playing this to be familiar with. Some things probably seem like they’re references to something but aren’t. This is what we in the business call “deep-”

That list of inspirations makes sense to me as sources for the intertextual weirdness of the books in the library annex. I definitely enjoyed playing spot-the-reference here, as the palette was broader than usual (this is the place with the Fukuyama name-check).

Pantry (Chris Conley)
>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-asked for something involving fruit, possibly preserved fruit, expecting I might get something like a pantry. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, and… I still don’t know what this is. Enjoy.

(Apologies for not being able to think of a good Soup Cans joke.)

And of course, a Very Sexually Ambiguous Helsinki Guaranteed Edible Thanks to my testers: Lucian Smith, Matt Weiner, Daniel Ravipinto, Chandler Groover, Carl Muckenhoupt, Sean M. Shore, Andrew Schultz, Michael Fessler, Mike Spivey, Jeremy Freese, Baldur Brückner, Hanon Ondricek, and Robert Colnaghi.
–CC

P.S. If nothing unexpected happens, I’ll-"

That is a very specific request, especially for an Anchorhead tribute where fruit seem to be neither here nor there, but Chris definitely made the most of it.

I’m guessing that P.S. is one of the organizers’ insertions to make sure the commentary always breaks off in the middle of a sentence.

Workroom (Andrew Plotkin)

>xyzzy
You know the Unnameable Name, but you are unable to pronounce it.

Ha, it sounds like XYZZY might be an alternate input allowing you the speak the Unnameable Name – remember, that was used in one of the climactic puzzles here – which is a characteristically clever way to implement the magic word.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-you’ve played Hadean Lands, you’ll notice that the ritual magic in my Cragne room is similar. Then again, in certain ways, it’s very different. (You never stand inside a ritual bound, right?)

Hadean Lands came together nicely, but there was no way it could fulfill all of my initial plans. A few elements were left on the curb, or appeared only tangentially, rather than being central pillars. The lack I most regretted was a true sense of combinatory explosion. You have lots of elements to play with, but most of them don’t combine in especially interesting ways.

I hit that mark better in an earlier game, The Dreamhold. The alchemy puzzle in that game lets you combine just five elements (gold resin, blue dust, noonlight, two berries) to produce over twenty distinct reactions and a dozen possible products. I could have doubled those figures if I’d had the energy.

I tried to achieve that texture in Cragne by specifying results in terms of combinations, rather than (as in HL) sequences. And, of course, by putting in as many red herrings and stray outcomes as I had time for.

Naturally, I started with way too many ideas. My initial notes included these extra magic words:

  • BLOOD: Spend your life force to attract the dead. (Shades of the Odyssey, pardon the pun.) Existing effects become more powerful. If you overuse this, you pass out and the ritual crashes.
  • BARRIER: The Elder Sign. A shield. Makes some encounters less dangerous, others impossible.
  • KEY: The knowledge that unseams and unlocks. Makes connections more transparent; some encounters become viable.

But these rapidly got cut after I realized how many combinations I was getting myself into.

My great parsimony, of course, is objects; this is an extremely sparse game. (I know that sounds silly in the context of a Cragne room, but…) I built several locations, but aside from the first and last, each location has just a couple of scenery objects and no portable ones. All of the spirits and presences are represented by a single object, the “manifestation”, which does nothing but show a variable description and (occasionally) a LISTEN or SMELL response.

The game’s rhythm is a steady cycle of find name, look up name, learn magic, find another name. I didn’t mean for it to be quite so tick-tock, but the player benefit of making all the clues reviewable in files is compelling. Then I realized that doing research (and learning new magic) in the middle of a ritual is awkward. When you start experimenting with your new spell, you should have a clean slate. So I added the requirement that you cancel your ritual before learning anything new.

I carried over the testing habits (and the regression tester) which I developed for Hadean Lands. I have a test script which runs through all the puzzle solutions and most of the puzzle failures, validating the responses. The test script has more lines than the game’s source code, although (to be fair) those lines are shorter and more repetitive.

In case you’re curious, the source code is about 21000 words of Inform, comprising about 11000 words of printable game text, 9300 of code, and 700 of commentary (what you’re reading now).

Overall, I was aiming at a game of roughly IFComp size. I typically allocate a month to write a game of that size, and indeed I was able to comfortably finish it in the three weeks available. (Ryan and Jenni scheduled four weeks, but I had to wrap up early because of a conflicting vacation.) Although the magic is Hadean-style, I tried to make the puzzles much easier than Hadean’s – this is supposed to be just one room in a large game! Even though the fun of the game is in experimentation, there are explicit signposts to all the important discoveries. Time and publication will show whether I put in enough of them.

(Just to keep you on your toes, every design principle I’ve described here is violated at least once in the game. At least potentially.-"

You let go of the button, ending the transmission, and you squeeze your long-suffering hand to alleviate a little bit of the pain. How much more of this can your poor muscles endure?

Lots of interest here, but the one detail I can’t get past is that this whole thing was implemented in three weeks??? Geez. This also reminds me I need to get back to Dreamhold one of these days, as I don’t think I’ve made it to that alchemy puzzle and it sounds fun.

Cold Storage Room (Jeremy Freese)

>xyzzy
A hollow voice says, “1998 was the annus mirabilis of parser-based interactive fiction. In addition to Anchorhead, there was Spider and Web - which offers perhaps the most inspired puzzle in the history of the medium - and Photopia, which pioneered the idea of games with no puzzles at all. In light of that, one might wonder whether someone should have done a subtribute to one of those games rather than a shout-out to an Infocom game that is not celebrating any especial annivers-”

“Give it a rest, drongo!” shouts a woman with an Australian accent. "We’re not here for your lecture. We’re here because we’ve heard one of these rooms has lion sex!

Ha, that’s a fun Violet call-back (the parser responses in that are famously written in the voice of the protagonist’s Australian girlfriend). But it’s funny, 1998’s bumper crop of games extends beyond IF – you’ve also got Half Life, Thief, Baldur’s Gate, Grim Fandango, Metal Gear Solid, Ocarino of Time, StarCraft, Fallout 2… there must have been something in the water.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-is grateful to Michael Hilborn, Buster Hudson, Rebecca C. N. McDonald, Marius Müller, Erica Newman, Hanon Ondricek, Jenni Polodna, Andrew Schultz, Lucian Smith, Mike Spivey, and Matt Weiner for testing, as well as of course to Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna for their invitation, inspiration, and-”

Saving the commentary for credits, after the more thematic stuff is in the XYZZY response, makes sense.

Wine Cellar (Nathaniel Edwards)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-room is the first thing I’ve ever made in Inform 7, so please excuse any issues you might have or the fact that there aren’t really many things implemented in the room. I only have so much time to work on this due to my busy schedule of, uh, doing a thousand side projects exactly like this-”

This is a very creditable first Inform 7 effort, I think, though I gotta ask, is there even one other side project exactly like Cragne Manor?

Laboratory (Michael Gentry)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-actually pretty terrible at writing commentary on my own work, so bear with me.

This room is just an amusing riff on my own feelings regarding Anchorhead, and I don’t have a lot to say about it that you haven’t already played through (read the preface to the illustrated edition if you’re really interested). I do have something to say about this game, Cragne Manor, though I may be inadequate to the task.

According to reports as of this writing, there are at least 85 people contributing to this game. Presumably a few of them will drop out, or have done so already, due to the normal sorts of conflicts and commitments that get in the way, but even so. Conservatively, that’s a hell of a lot of people, some of whom have put a frankly insane amount of effort and word count into their individual pieces of this lurching patchwork. Many of them, surely, chose to participate for the unique exquisite-corpse nature of the project, but all of them participated because they wanted to say something - be it critical, nostalgic, complimentary, satirical, or just silly - about Anchorhead.

That is humbling.

Many heartfelt thanks to Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna for conceiving and managing this project, and greenlighting my goofy-ass metajoke of a room concept. Thanks to Andrew Plotkin for telling me about it when I was off intfiction.org for a while and would have probably missed it otherwise. Thanks to Andrew Schultz for testing my code. Thanks to every person who contributed a room to the coolest anniversary gift I ever got.

And thank you for playing. It’s, uh, it’s the interactivity, you see. I can’t lead you, I can only-"

You let go of the button, ending the transmission, and you squeeze your long-suffering hand to alleviate a little bit of the pain. How much more of this can your poor muscles endure?

Much like the room itself, this is a gracious way to put the focus on Cragne Manor, not Anchorhead.

Boiler Room (Eric W. Brown)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-a lot of fun making this, and I hope you just as much fun exploring it.

There are loads of references to the obvious things, but there is one reference I ought to explain a little further as it’s far too obscure for anyone to recognize. Some years (decades?) ago I wrote an Inform 6 game that I used to help educate folks about interactive fiction. The goal of this game was returning some books to a library. Sound familiar? Anyhow, the books in the game were real books that were actually part of the collection of the Saugus Public Library, and Saugus is a town on the northern coast of Massachusetts, not too far from where the fictional Anchorhead was supposed to be located. I personally got inspired to look up one of these books some years later and was surprised to discover that it had disappeared from the collection. I find it entertaining on many levels to think that it was swiped from there and brought to Cragne Manor.

And yes, part of it was inspired by a classic Scooby-Doo episode.

Thanks to Andrew Schultz, Hanon Ondricek, Marius Müller, Jarrod Staples, and Danielle Brown for testing. The quality of the final product is much improved due to-"

Ha, that’s a very cute repurposing of a coincidence! Truly, Saugus is the secret center of the IF universe.

(We’ll pick up with the tunnels, then move to the second floor, next time – maybe one or two more updates, we’re getting close)

6 Likes

“Nothing happens” is the default Colossal Cave reply if you are not in the right location, so I think it is appropriate here. I did the same in a completely different context.

2 Likes

Definitely seems like a fun thing to explore in the “source code” bonus update. I’m curious about the “truth” behind Christabell and Carol’s motivations.

Yes, this was a thing! Or at least it was a thing mentioned in the memos, I don’t know if anyone took them up on it. People who didn’t know I7 could get help with the actual implementation.

Oh hey, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to technically stick to the “only one room” rule while thoroughly breaking it in spirit. Lots of object-shuffling indeed!

2 Likes

(Bonus Chapter the First, concluded?)

Amorphous Tunnel (Bill Maya)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-time player, first time implementor. I can be found online at http://objectiveme.com.

ORGANIZER’S NOTE: As submitted, Bill’s room broke this section of tunnel up into three pseudo-rooms. Unfortunately, in the greater context of Cragne Manor, this did not work, so we collapsed everything into a single room. The organizers wish to apologize for editing this-"

That’s interesting – I remember this room as pretty straightforward so not sure how being broken down into three distinct areas would have worked.

Curiosity Shop (Rachel Spitler)

>xyzzy
A soft glow haloes the fearsome masks. On your person, you feel the gold jacket (smelling faintly of mildew) vibrate gently. After a moment, both effects dissipate.

Huh, that’s weird! Wonder what happens if we try that again?

>xyzzy
A soft glow haloes the small cauldrons. On your person, you feel the black box (smelling faintly of mildew) vibrate gently. After a moment, both effects dissipate.

Hmm, the masks are presumably wearable, and the jacket of course is a piece of apparel; likewise, cauldrons are containers as is the box, so maybe that’s the connection?

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-Aside from Anchorhead, this room contains homages to / blatant ripoffs of Colossal Cave Adventure, Spider and Web, The Secret of Monkey Island, Undertale, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. My name is Rachel and my twitter is @masamage. Anyone who wants to-”

I think the eagle eyes of the thread picked up just about everything here, except Undertale (never played it) and Spider and Web. It’s been quite a while since I’ve played the latter and all I really recall about it is that puzzle, so even with this prompt I’m not picking anything up.

On to the second floor!

Top of Stairs (Q. Pheevr)

>xyzzy
I understood that reference.

…which is itself an Avengers reference, of course (it’s the Cap gif you see everywhere). Plugh and plover give the same.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-kitchen at the top of the stairs / Can I mix in with your affairs?” Can I also thank my beta-testers (Caleb Wilson, Andrew Schultz, and Erica Newman), with whom I shared a smoke, made a joke, and grasped and reached for a leg of-"

Those odd locutions are of course further lyrics from the Violent Femmes song that’s translated into Bible-ese in the plumbing, so at least those not blessed with @mathbrush’s incredible powers of google-fu can figure out what’s going on.

Upstairs Hall, north end (Jason Love)

>xyzzy
You whisper a magic word. The ambient temperature in Outside the greenhouse (James Eagle) decreases by 1 degree Celsius.

Ha, that’s funny! Repeated invocations make clear the location, and the direction of the temperature change, is randomized each time, so it’d take quite a while to random-walk your way to a significant impact on a room, which is a neat way of justifying why this doesn’t actually do anything.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-would still like to thank Jenni and Ryan for coordinating this event, fellow contributors Hanon and Shin for their testing assistance, and Michael Gentry for inspiring us all in this ludicrous endeavor.

Before the project began, our organizers created a series of puzzle tracks to help organize and pace the player’s progression through the game. As part of the Venus Track, it was my responsibility to create and detail one of the Cragnes who was an Alderman of the Variegated Court and furthermore to detail that individual’s familiar. While my original plan was to hide these details in various books and notebooks around my room, that plan changed once I learned just how much energy my fellow contributors were investing in the development of their rooms. I wanted to make something simple that told a vaguely creepy story about something that once happened between a few members of the extended Cragne family. You will have acquired all the materials necessary to construct that story once you have collected two of Carolyn Chambers’s possessions: her notebook, and her tape player. If you don’t yet have both of those items in your possession, maybe take a walk to the other side of the house and come back. Maybe do it more than once. After that, you’ll be ready to move on.

Anyway, thanks for playing through my room, and thanks for reading my commentary! Please direct any questions or comments to my email address, jsnlxndrlv@gmail.com. Have fun with the rest of the-"

A nice prompt here to the potentially-tricky time-based mechanic here, since the room does behave differently from most in the game. I think this approach wound up standing out more than the alternate books-and-papers scavenger hunt would have been.

Carol’s Room has the identical commentary to the Hillside Path, so I won’t re-post that.

Hallway South (Matt Schneider)

>xyzzy
Oh, so you’d like me to inform you of the solution to this puzzle? Are you sure? You’re on a tear!

That’s a fun little prod in the right direction.

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “-goal for this room was to have a small space that had something subtly wrong with it, which then led to the player realising that there was more going on beneath the surface. I go into this more-SPOILERS-in the commentary in?”

When I played this, I thought that last reference was to the longer emailed commentary Jenni’s mentioned, but now I look at it I think it’s implying there’s more to see in the inside-wall room, so let’s check that out now:

> push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: “—room is where the magic happens. Well, not magic per se—with luck it’ll still qualify as technopaganism. One of the things I find most compelling about Lovecraftian fiction is the sense of strangeness that can be found in liminal spaces, where our understanding of the order of things is completely overturned. With that in mind, I wanted the player to
find themselves in a liminal space (quite literally, here) where their understanding of the room would be transformed by seeing the literal building blocks of the room.

My hope for this space is that it will take the player by surprise, but that as the player realises what’s going on, they’ll quickly realise how to solve the puzzle and find the book. I wanted this puzzle to reward players for taking the time to read the code, and I wanted it to hint at the era of gaming where players could sometimes only solve puzzles by reading the source or PEEKing at the contents of the game’s—”

That very much tracks my experience of this room, so mission accomplished.

So long as we’re here:

> xyzzy
They tired easily of authors who broke the fourth wall—it always came across as feeling too smart by half.

They noticed the time—had it passed so quickly—and thought to themselves that they should probably move on from Cragne
Manor.

They closed the game and walked away from the computer.

*** The End ***

Cute!

Library (Mike Spivey)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "?was created by Mike Spivey, with puzzle design contributions by Amy Spivey. Testing by Brian Rushton and Andrew Schultz.

Much of this room was inspired by the library in the Verlac mansion in Anchorhead. The tome on the podium was modeled after the tome in the chapel. I put my own twist on it, of course.

The back blurbs from A Billion Random Digits were taken from or inspired by actual Amazon.com reviews of A Million Random Digits, which is a real book published by the Rand Corporation. Seriously. For-"

We got most of this from Mike stopping by the thread, but it’s good that there are less bespoke ways of getting the info!

MASTER BEDROOM (ROWAN LIPKOVITS)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-a story is like taking a snapshot, capturing one perfect moment for posterity. Writing an interactive story is like making a cartoon, where suddenly your perfect images need to interact with each other in satisfying and predictable ways. The complexity scales, not geometrically, but exponentially. As a contrarian, I have no choice but to approach creative challenges from the back entrance. As a game player I’m always that irritating-to-watch person trying to push the furniture and jump out the window “just to see if it’ll let me”, and in Inform 7, which Will Let You (providing you can phrase it in the one true way), I have met my match. If my colleagues here have been puttering around with gentle landscaping, planting flower beds or perhaps installing a pond with a waterwheel, I grimly set to work seeing just how deep a hole I can dig. Then I find that the answer is: so deep I find I cannot manage to climb out again on my own. Nothing to do but keep digging, then! Perhaps I’ll break through the other side! This is just the sort of person you want on board for your group project, right? He has so many ideas, and will need you to fix them all.

But enough about me, what about this room? My initial contrarian impulse was to attempt to derail carefully constructed-by-committee mood with a menacing but lighthearted protracted CYOA section, perhaps in the vein of The Ascot. Unfortunately, I had no idea where to start with implementing such a thing in Inform 7; there are extensions, but our best practices guidelines discouraged their use. Besides, after 50 Shades of Jilting, my most recent exercise in wrongheadedly working at odds with the strengths of a text parser, I felt that perhaps just this once it might be a lark to go with the flow. But of course I couldn’t just make a room – it had to have some prestige element, an unexpected veer that just happens to be a colossal pain in the derriere to implement.

Anyhow. I hope that it behaved as intended. If it did, I hope that you were at least mildly surprised and amused. It’s tremendously intimidating to be in the room with so many greats of the field: you know you’re not going to outcode them, there’s no point in even trying; you know you’re not going to outwrite them, possibly because they know the value of a round of editing… all you can really count on is the gotcha value of your gonzo idea and hope that your skillZ are up to the task of at least handwaving around it such that some of its potent stink juice remains perceivable in the final product.

The internal name of the cockroach-avatar is archy, named after don marquis’ renowned vers libre poet whose soul transmigrated into the body of just such a bug – the gonzo idea of its time, if you will. You, dear reader, would be well-advised to locate a volume of the archy and mehitabel poems, at least some of which should be confidently in the public domain. They have a lot more to say than-"

You let go of the button, ending the transmission, and you squeeze your long-suffering hand to alleviate a little bit of the pain. How much more of this can your poor muscles endure?

This approach to making your room stand out seems like a smart one to me – I certainly found this Kafka homage memorable!

That’s the second floor taken care of – we’re on to the attic, getting close!

Disheveled Studio (Katherine Morayati)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-parts by Anchorhead, Siri Hustvedt’s The Blindfold and What I Loved, and Fragrantica. Thanks to Sam Ashwell for testing and to Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna for this fantastic behemoth of an endeavor. No thanks to me for any sense of scope.

Yes, it’s an Elon Musk joke. Yes, it was timely when I-"

(We already saw this – this was the room where we figured out what the walkie-talkie did, I believe! – but reposting it here for completeness’s sake)

Invasive Library (Justin de Vesine)

>push button
(the walkie-talkie (smelling faintly of mildew))
You hold down the button. The speaker blares out: "-phrasing of “an unconscionable number of books” is delightful, and somewhere along the line the concept of an invasive library crept into my brain. Libraries are sort of alive to start with, of course - with so many books in them, reality warps a little bit and lets them thrive and grow on their own terms - but most of them live very sedentary lives so we hardly notice.

One of my favorite - if most frustrating - things from the early school of adventure games is sudden, gruesome, often humorous deaths. I haven’t packed this room anything like as full of deathtraps as some games had, but the one that is here is a lovingly crafted doom. Artisan doom, if you will. Shade-grown. You know, like grues.

There are no grues in this room. At least none native to it.

Anyway, books are-"

I feel like everyone I’ve ever lived with has opined that I have an unconscionable number of books, so I’m definitely on the side of the creeping doom-library, here. I did some poking around, thinking maybe the death involved waiting or sitting down or lying down, such that the books like suffocate you, but couldn’t find it – maybe it has to happen before grabbing the library book?

The Science Tower doesn’t have anything (aww, I was at least hoping for commentary!) The Observatory doesn’t have anything either, so it’s on through the portal to see if XYZZY does anything in the final two locations.

Spoiler – the gnomic Gulf of Nehilim continues to keep its own counsel. But…

The Great Purple Unknown (Adri)

>xyzzy
Magic can’t save you now.

Plugh and plover behave the same. And that’s our lot – except wait, this is another room in the source code repository, so even though there’s no in-game way to access it, we can still read the commentary text:

Commentary of END2 is “There’s a fly buzzing around here somewhere.”

Huh, there is?

> x fly
You can’t see any such thing.

> listen
You hear nothing at all. It is eerily quiet.

> swat fly
That verb doesn’t work here, or, at least, not right now, but it might work
somewhere later.

> hit fly
You can’t see any such thing.

Must be a well-hidden fly!

After coming up empty, I peeked in the source code to see what you’re supposed to do – but that means finding out what’s up with this fly properly belongs in the next bonus update, where we’ll check out the publicly-available source code and see if there are more fun secrets, easter eggs, or implementation tricks to turn up. That might wind up being split into two or more chapters, since I think there’ve been some additions to the repository since I formed my initial sense of how long this might take – there are like 30 rooms now, which is great but will likely be a fair bit of work!

It’ll also be work that comes towards the end of the year, as the thread will once again be mothballed to make room for IF Comp reviewing! Hope to see y’all then.

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Excellent thread! Fun update. I know you’ve already seen the answer (I haven’t seen the source yet) but I wonder if the fly is a reference to the real estate office in Anchorhead at the very beginning that has an invisible fly.

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Oh, could well be – though interestingly, from a quick google at Anchorhead transcripts looks like there’s an invisible fly in the last scene, too, which might be the more direct antecedent.

Rereading that scene also reminded me of something (spoilers for the end of Anchorhead that are more plot-relevant than “there’s an invisible fly”): it ends with the main character announcing her pregnancy, with more than a little bit of a foreboding undertone. I mentioned a couple times through the thread a suspicion that Nitocris was going to give birth to Vaadignephod or something icky like that, so I’m guessing that’s what I was subconsciously pulling from even though I didn’t fully remember that plot point!

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to be clear Chris asked for the fruit & we assigned him the pantry, we didn’t specify any particular thing be included in anyone’s room save for the puzzle chain objects/information

doing the room assignments was probably my favorite part of working on Cragne; there was a space in the Google form to make (non-guaranteed) requests, & Ryan sent me a spreadsheet of every room in the map he’d designed, & I just went to town

(we all knew Sam would write an amazing pub but also I think he referenced a hangover somewhere in his form? anyway there was never any question the pub was Sam’s)

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Yeah, “there’s a fly buzzing around here somewhere” is an ambient message that appears in both the first section of Anchorhead (the real estate office) and the very last (the epilogue), a sort of thematic bookend that adds some ominousness to both the weirdly empty real estate office and the perfectly calm and normal end scene. Since this is the very last section of Cragne Manor, that’s what I imagine the reference is.

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