When combing through my hard disk, I stumbled across an old game of mine, Jason and Medea. It was written as a tech demo for the PAX East 2011 interactive fiction Demo Fair, hosted by Emily Short. In this game, you play Medea, and you have to win a competitive conversation against Jason. You choose to argue about certain topics, ‘attack’ and ‘defend’ depending on how well things are going, and can really sway the audience by timing your big reveal just right. There has never been a good reason not to release it, and so I’m now releasing it. Check it out at the IFDB.
ATTACK already existed, and was used in conversation in 'Mid the Sagebrush and the Cactus. Do you remember why you didn’t use ATTACK, and how this system differs from it?
I can’t say I fully remember, but luckily, the game itself contains an explanation of my reasoning:
My original plan was to use my Inform ATTACK combat system as the underlying mechanics of the game. But I quickly came to realise that such a combat system – which involves tactical actions that can be repeated an unlimited number of times – is not useful when you want to implement those tactical actions as verbal actions. There is nothing wrong with someone swinging a sword ten times; but there is something very wrong with someone saying the exact same phrase ten times. So while ATTACK-style combat can be easily combined with conversation, it is not easy to reinterpret this combat as conversation.
The system I did devise is much simpler. It’s up to you to decide how well it works; but one of its advantages is that writing up the conversations takes relatively little time. (Not more and probably less than using traditional topic-based or menu-based conversations.)
Another thing I would like to point is how easy it is to combine this system with puzzles. Finding the right moment to use the love letters is a puzzle; and finding the love letters, or stopping Jason from finding some compromising material, could have been an earlier puzzle. In addition, these puzzles are optional: you might still win if you fail to solve them. I like the idea of optional but useful puzzles, so this gets me excited.
I must have not been totally happy with how 'Mid the Sagebrush and the Cactus worked out; and indeed, the present game does feel more elegant in terms of system. It would also be easier to grasp for the player. I can see myself using this system in the future; a full ATTACK-based conversation system, not so much.