Release: "The Fourth Riddle", parser game based on Turandot


This game is based on Puccini’s opera Turandot, focusing on the characters of Turandot and Liù. Features pretty/interesting spaces to explore, multiple endings based on player decisions, some conversation, and some ability to explore backstory. It’s playable without knowledge of the opera, and while knowledge of the opera will make the experience richer, you can probably get about as much as would be helpful from Wikipedia. Content warnings for some references to sexual violence; no explicit descriptions.

Play in-browser here or download .gblorb here.

It’s been playtested and so hopefully doesn’t have any major bugs, but still, any feedback is appreciated - it can always be better. There is no built-in hinting system, but if you’re stuck, I can nudge you in the right direction (or implement a fix if it’s a real problem).

(The three riddles that open the game are straight out of the opera and I don’t expect people coming at this from the IF side to necessarily know or guess them; you can help/xyzzy/skip them if you want.)


Great idea, playing it now.
I like to think everyone knows Turandot, whether they realize it or not :slight_smile: 'cause of Nessun Dorma.

(Felicity Drake) #3

How wonderful! Turandot has so much unexplored dramatic potential, and this game examines the interaction between Liu and Turandot in an interesting way.

A question about the endings: I was not able to end the game as the opera ends–that is to say, Liu can kill Turandot but apparently cannot kill herself? Have I missed something?


FelicityDrake, you haven’t missed anything! I decided that I didn’t want Liu to be able to kill herself. (Although I suppose I could put in a custom response to make it clear that that’s not an oversight.) Glad you enjoyed - I’m curious about what ending(s) you got (if any besides killing her), or if you have other questions.

(Felicity Drake) #5

Thanks so much for responding! This is a thought-provoking game, and it’s nice to get to talk to the creator directly. There is a long response inside the spoiler below. :slight_smile:

[spoiler]I definitely think there should be a custom response to the player attempting to cause Liu to kill herself. I just got the generic response “Violence isn’t the answer to this one,” which is frustrating (and also contradictory, since I can murder Turandot just fine!). That would be a good place for some flavor, to explain why you want to subvert that part of the opera.

These are the endings I got:
You murdered Turandot
You gave away the Prince’s name, asking for nothing in return
You traded Calaf’s life for riches
You gave Turandot everything

AND, while I was writing this comment and messing around to see if I missed anything, I opened up a whole new path!!! I hadn’t yet tried to “swear” before giving any names, which then opened up the last (?) scene of the game. Where I got this ending:

You learned the secret

Did I miss any other endings? Is there anything Turandot can do at the end other than sleep?

I was so, so excited to find that last ending. It felt much more dramatically effective than the others. I had been thinking that it was frustrating that Turandot was so unbending, that even after we played as her, we could not move her or change her intent, and then finally I found a resolution that draws together both Liu and Turandot’s very different perspectives and dilemmas.

I hope there is still a bit more I haven’t found! This was really enjoyable to explore; I have a lot of strong opinions about Turandot the opera, which I love but think is flawed in a major way, namely its failure to properly deal with its characters. You have created alternate paths here that feel in some ways more true to the characters than the opera’s ending does.

You take Turandot and her principled objection to being possessed by a man perfectly seriously; I particularly loved the use of the ghosts of her persistent suitors as obstacles. And I am still grappling with what you make of Liu here, and her role as a servant, and how she views her service, and where her loyalties lie, and whether or not she has the potential for her own independent desires. Obviously I loved this!!!

A few things I noticed that may be bugs:

In Liu’s scene at the end, if you do this:
swear / yes (you trust her) / no (you won’t give her your name) / ask for her
The game then asks “Do you want to continue?”, and if you say “no,” it appears to be bugged; it prompts you to ask for her again, and won’t accept any responses at all (including “ask for her”).

In Turandot’s scene at the end:
You have “Liu’s service” as an item, but can’t examine it or interact with it.
It’s possible to give Liu back Liu’s name and the Prince’s name, which removes them from your inventory and produces a strange response: “You give Liù’s name to The slave girl.” It also seems to break the scene a little; you can no longer look at Liu: “On the bed is The slave girl, asleep.”
You also can’t examine Liu after you stand up? (“x liu” just produces “.”)[/spoiler]


Ooh, thanks! This is super helpful, I’ll patch this soon.

[spoiler]Sleeping is the only thing you can do as Turandot in the end, yeah. One day there will be a big 2.0 release where you can play the throne room scene as Turandot too (featuring such choices as “pull a Scarpia and promise his safety to get the name, then go back on it”), but right now it’s just that little coda and that’s all that’s in it.

Other endings - there’s one where you point-blank refuse to reveal your name and become, like, Turandot’s shadowy servant, one where you ask for her name in exchange for your own, one where you give her Calaf’s name after giving her your own (but without swearing) and become a sort of folk hero, and a kind of screwy one that you can get if you kiss her before swearing your service.

Other non-ending content: mostly environmental detail. Conversations in the Market and Brothel, the ghosts, the tributes, the statues in the Avenue, the various books, and the murals in the Mural Room. Specifically, the poetry book in the Library hints at an easter egg that doesn’t really impact gameplay, but you can steal the moon from the sky (and if you do, room descriptions will reflect its absence). Oh, and there are a few accessible memories besides the Lou-ling memory - Turandot can remember her father or how the riddle contest began, Liu can remember some more stuff about her own past.

In terms of bugs -

Oh, annoying, if you say “no” it’s supposed to just end the game. I just checked it and that’s what happens when I answer “no” there, so I’m not really sure what the issue is :frowning: What platform are you on? It works for me in my browser (Firefox), in Glulxe, and in Inform.

Ah, I see the issue! Most things whose name includes “Liù” accept the player typing “Liu” but I’d overlooked this one. Fixed.

Oh, good catch. I prevented the player from dropping names and from giving them to other people, but obviously carved out an exception for one PC to give a name to another and didn’t think about barring them from giving it back. I think what I just added should fix that.

Ahhh, the sweet smell of me being a dumbass. This was me cutting corners because of some weird stuff happening with scenes (just checking if Turandot was on the bed rather than if the right scene was happening), but I just substituted the name of the scene and it seems to work okay, so hopefully I haven’t screwed up something else.[/spoiler]

I’m so so glad you liked it! And this was really helpful.

(Felicity Drake) #7

Thanks so much for all the comments and hints about how to find more endings and more content! (I was playing online in Chrome, in case it helps.)

Also, I recently stumbled across a short story that I suspect will be relevant to your interests: … -turandot/


Neato, thanks for the link! I’ll check it out.

Okay, I’d downloaded Chrome for other reasons so I just gave it a spin on Chrome too. I’m able to end the game by answering NO to the “Do you want to continue” question. I was wondering if maybe you’d first done YES and then hit UNDO, but I’m still able to end the game with NO from there. So, not really sure what happened.

I’ll be sure to let the forum know whenever 2.0 happens!