Referring to the player in the third person

This is actually something I’ve considered quite a bit; I think that perspective can make or break a game. For example, if there is a creepy noise:

I hear a sound - I'm starting to get a bit creeped out! You hear a sound - you're starting to get a bit creeped out! Jill hears a sound - she's starting to get a bit creeped out!
The first is the PC telling the player about something, and sounds a bit scared; the second, the game is ‘forcing’ something on the player (the feeling of being creeped out), which can get a bit annoying if done poorly; and the third is more a simple status - we may not care about Jill at all.

However, the vast majority of games stick with one of those three, usually the first and second, because usually, they are trying to be invisible. But what about other responses? Instead of treating the player as a puppet master, actually involve them in the game; make the characters know that they are being given directions, say, as if player is typing responses through something like text messaging:

Susie: Ok, I opened the door. Susie: There's a weird man there! You:x man Susie: He's just standing there. Hold on, I'll tell him to leave. He's really creepy... You:close door You:close door You:x man You:look MESSAGE SEND FAILED
Or, for even more creepiness… have the character refuse to respond:

>get lamp
Straining, Fred finally tears himself away from your control! He stares up at the corner of the room, as if he's looking right at you.
>get lamp
Fred doesn't belong to you any more, player.
Fred exits the room to the north.
Who are you talking to? There is no one here to obey you any more.
The room is empty, player. Go torment someone else.

You get even creepier than that, too; it’s not too hard to set up a section that looks like a command prompt, but that isn’t; when the player starts typing (say, “open door”), it instead types out “kill man”, or something equally as horrific. That’s a concept I’d really like to see - forcing the player into situations outside of just participation, taking them from “That character just killed someone!” to “I just killed someone!”

Obviously, it could go the other way, too; in a more comedic game, the player could get fed up with the player and solve a puzzle on their own, or start daydreaming after too many ‘wait’ commands and miss what the player says next - or even the parser itself could interfere:

[code]>get vase
Fred picks up the vase, spliling some dirt on the conter as he does so.

x vase
Wait, sorry, that was terrible. Let me try that again.
Fred actually spilled some dirt on the conter.
x vase
Oh man, I’m an idiot - it was a counter! Just be glad I didn’t misspell it without other letters!
Oh right! Sorry! Um, the vase is really pretty and - no? sorry, I’m a terrible parser, BAD PARSER, BAD PARSER!
Fred walks north in disgust AT ME! BECAUSE I’M A BAD PARSER!

One can certainly imagine “Dr. Jekyll” type scenarios, where, upon the occurrence of some trigger (or even at random) the PC goes back and forth between being controlled by the player and behaving on its own. Perhaps one could write a game where the whole idea is to figure out how to maintain control of the PC – where the out-of-control episodes become more and more frequent and eventually become permanent (if you haven’t figured out how to prevent it by that time).

I’ve used a very rudimentry take on this, where the player finds a bottle of booze; if he drinks it, he gets drunk and for a certain number of turns he just wanders around randomly, ignoring what the player types.

Robert Rothman

There’s precedent for both PC as someone you’re talking to through some communication line (Jon Ingold’s Fail-Safe) and a PC that you don’t control all the time and must manipulate (a 2010 IntroComp game, though I don’t want to say which for spoilery reasons).

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of an intoxicated PC for quite a while. My WIP contains a variation on this, but I hope to take it further in future works. I think there’s a fine line between making the situation funny/scary/mind-bending and simply putting the player off. Even though I thought my schtick was pretty mild and easy to comprehend, I got a lot of negative feedback from testers. I haven’t figured out how to create the effect of a really blitzed-out PC in an effective way, but I’ll keep thinking about it.

I found “Blue Chairs” to be largely disappointing, but I appreciated that it dealt with this theme.

Yup! In my very first text adventure, a homebrew game I made in the mid 80’s, player character could get drunk and would reject any player command save moving around, which he would do quite awkardly. The only feedback player would receive of the situation was a dull message of the “You’re so drunk you hardly can do anything at all” kind. It worked nicely, as that was the level of implementation players expected in something created in BASIC for an 8-bit computer.

In my latest Beta thing, after a scene in which PC witness a rather terryfying vision, he gets so shocked he’ll refuse to do anything for a brief amount of turns, and then player will gradiently get control back. Beta-testing has proved it to be rather confusing if not properly paced (but that was entirely my own fault! :slight_smile: )

You could have room/object descriptions be more vague. Have a pool of randomized generic responses for when the player is unable to do something (i.e., “You’re far too wasted to do something requiring that much dexterity”). Make it so certain actions the player normally takes for granted (">take all") suddenly become difficult (“glancing around, you decide that you would probably fall on your face if you tried to take more than one thing at a time”). Have the player confuse some objects for other things, but in a way that’s obvious that it’s the result of the booze (i.e., a coat rack in a dark corner could become a tall, skinny, perfectly immobile man holding a couple of coats, or a rope could become a dead snake), until interacted with directly. Give the narration a “drunk mindset” - empty rooms are either boring or creepy, things on the other side of the room sometimes feel deceptively close, mildly annoying jerks are suddenly begging to be punched out by the PC, and so on. And try little touches - instead of having the PC just wander in a random direction, have the player go where he/she wants to go, but in a drunk kind of way - maybe there’s a X% chance that entering a room while drunk will cause the player to knock something over or drop something.

Of course, that would be a ton of effort to write and code, but I feel it’d be worth it (depending, of course, on the game), especially since I’ve never seen any game thate ever comes close to showing what intoxication is like outside of the screen getting wobbly.

That’s a lot of ideas - thanks! I’ve actually tried a couple of them (like dropping stuff when you enter a room). Not so popular with testers, but I think there might be a way to make it work.

I’ve also tried giving a couple descriptions a “drunk mindset,” but it’s tricky - just as in real life sometimes, it’s hard for the player to see that their experience of the world is different from the way it would be if they were sober.

I’m more optimistic about the “hallucinatory” effects (I love your examples!), and I’m hoping that will add some humor. But there’s also a possibility that they’ll just be confusing. It’s a fine line!

I think a better play-experience-technically better way to do this might be altered perception. The drunk PC may see a snake, and by your commands attack and kill it. Only later on, returning in a more sober state, she may find she cannot plug in the standing lamp, because the plug at the end of the cable has been smattered.

It could work both ways - the altered perception may hinder or help. The drunk PC may be willing to do things (picking up the cuddly bunny) the sober version refuses (picking up the rat).

But you just described the status quo of every story with a third-person omniscient narrator ever. Authors more or less stopped trying to justify how their readers could know what was going on soon after Cervantes (“I am writing this in the hopes that someone will discover these notes and learn the awful truth of what happened here…” et al.)

Many cool gimmicks can be implemented atop the dissociation between player and PC no doubt. I love all kinds, both the blank PC style and fully fleshed out PC’s downright to unreliable narrators and narrators with style such as Violet.

I think part of the fun with role-playing is precisely getting in someone else’s shoes rather than being same old me in elven shoes. Second person works best to me.

I reacted to this example here.

Shades of Grey had a section like that.

“Bliss” was all about that.