Room Serial, an escape game

I’m looking for testers for my new game. It’s a room escape game where you escape a series of rooms while gaining more available actions on the way. I would appreciate any feed back!

play it on playfic:

Just edited the game to add a walkthrough function.

I tried to play through this, but I could not figure out what to do in the second room, and since I figured I had probably examined everything in the room I just checked the source code and input the cheat code.

Okay, no, that’s a lie. I actually looked at the source in a good faith attempt to figure how to solve the second room, but then I saw there was a cheat code and thought, hey! I don’t actually need to play any more of this game!

So what led to this response? A couple of things:
* First off, the quality of writing in the game is… functional, but not much better than that. When your entire game is composed of text you need to pay that much more attention to the writing. There isn’t much flavor, for lack of a better term, in the current game’s text, and that’s a big problem. Also there were a lot of niggling grammar flaws, mostly sentences ending without a full stop of some kind.

* Second, the game’s puzzles (well, what few of them I managed to come across) came off as really unintuitive. For example, the first puzzle:

I thought it was really unfair how you had to examine the eyes of the photo, when they were not pointed out in the photo’s description. Yes, I know, the clue on the wall hints toward this, but there’s no reason to believe that the photo (or anything else in the room) has eyes. Yes, I know, photos of people generally have eyes in them, but it’s an IF convention that things left undescribed are unimportant, and therefore unimplemented. If your goal was a bit of obfuscation, you could have made the woman in the photo a second level object like you did with the words on the wall, and have the description of her point out her eyes.

* Third, this is probably going to be a little subjective, but I think puzzle games should almost always have some kind of built-in hint system. I’m never good at these games and need all the help I can get. Even something as simple as a WALKTHROUGH command would have helped. (The cheat command is a good start, but it doesn’t really count, seeing how it skips all the puzzles for you. HELP, HINT, and WALKTHROUGH also have the added benefit of being able to be advertised at start-up.)

* Lastly, and again this is probably subjective, I absolutely hated the limited abilities gimmick. Part of the problem, I think, is that IF already constrains the player’s actions a fair amount, e.g. hitting a person (or thing) usually results in a response like “Violence is not the answer to this one.”* When I found out my actions had been constrained even further, I wanted to scream. Where this hit me hardest, and made me want to give up, was figuring out what the hell to do in the second room. There were several items that seemed to point to some kind of calendar, or password entry maybe, but there didn’t seem to be anything like either of those anywhere I could currently go. I couldn’t open things so I couldn’t open the panels on the desk (or were they drawers? I think drawers would have made more sense there), and I didn’t think I could search things. After looking through the source code I think I COULD have searched things at that point in time, but I had no way of knowing that since the POWERS list didn’t mention searching as something I could do. And even then there was still the simple frustration of NOT BEING ABLE TO OPEN AN UNLOCKED DOOR. I think part of the story is you being some kind of weird ghost-guy; maybe if you played that up a lot more this would be less frustrating.

So, yeah, that’s my feedback. I actually feel a little awful ripping into your game like that, because it’s clear that you put a lot of effort into it, but even if you just wanted to make a simple escape-the-room game it still needs a lot more work.

*[size=85]Stupid sidenote: I always wanted to make a game with the response “Violins is not the answer to this one,” but I could never figure out what the best context for it should be.[/size]

Hi, thanks for your response! I don’t mind at all that you are ripping into my game since I really want honest feedback :laughing: Thanks for typing up all these suggestions. I think I will take your advice and provide some hint system.

There’s some bugginess in the powerleveling. (And I didn’t mind the verb restriction – you tell us up front that the verbs are restricted, and it can be nice to know exactly what you can do – but see below.) If you repeat an action that originally gave you a power, the power name gets added to the list again. So my current powerlist is

look, examine, go to, enter, touch, open, close, listen, listen to, move, move, move, remember, and move

Worse, at least one of the actions that gives you a new power just sets your power level to whatever it was. The problem is this code:

[spoiler]After examining the eye: if the eye is unexplored: now the powerlevel is 2; add {"go to", "enter"} to the powerlist; now the eye is explored.

When I went back and reexamined the eyes, it took away all my powers of memory.[/spoiler]

A point about actions:

I don’t think anyone is going to get the “going by point” system without sourcediving. It’s very unusual in IF games to be required to “go to” an object within a room. Generally if it’s there, you can reach it.

Also, the nouns can be kind of fiddly:

[spoiler]Healy already talked about looking at the eyes – though I got that one – but I also got frustrated when touching the candle did nothing. Turned out I needed to touch the flame, which is mentioned, but touching the candle should be redirected to touching the flame when it’s lit. Or you should give a response that indicates that I’m touching the wax and not the flame.

Also, I found examining the shadows in that room very unintuitive. If the room is shrouded in shadows, and that’s important, it should probably be in the description.[/spoiler]

Another point is that it’d be good to have the rooms laid out in a consistent compass direction. When I have to backtrack, I keep having to remember which door led into the room I’m in, and it’s annoying. If I could go e/e/e/e w/w/w/w to go one way or another, it’d be easier. (I know that compass directions are artificial, but this convention works. You could also make the directions “in” and “out.”)

Having said this, I like the idea of this game. I especially liked that

the PC turned out to be suffering from survivor’s guilt over her cowardice. I’d thought that the PC would turn out to be the murderer, and that the messages were about locking away the memory of what he’d done. But it makes sense that they were a representation of her fear.

I think one of the biggest things you can do is more writing and implementation – as Healy said, the lack of periods is disconcerting (and it tends to mess up the line spacing), and in general you can add a lot of atmosphere by giving specific responses beyond “you touch [the noun]” and the like.

Thanks a lot for you feedback. Good catch on the bugs, I didn’t notice that :p. I will work on it more to fix things.

If you’d like to see what other IF escape-the-room games have tried, there was a contest held by Jay is Games a while back that dealt with this very theme. At the very least try out Dual Transform, which is one of my favorite Andrew Plotkin games.

I like the acquiring powers schtick.

I’m stuck in the lamp room atm, trying to hold off on looking at the source for now.

Others have already suggested you add hints, and talked about implementation issues. Probably the main thing I’d add concerns the ‘go to’ command. I guess that’s a command 99% of players will not think means ‘go over to the (object)’, since it’s perhaps one of the most basic assumptions players have in these games that when in a location, they don’t have to ‘go towards’ things. There are lots of commands people can program in different ways in different games, but I don’t this that one has wiggle room unless you tell people it’s going to behave differently to how they expect - they’d expect it to work like ‘go to 7th room’ for instance. Even if you tell them, in the case of ‘go to’, plenty will probably remain grouchy.

It’s obviously very raw and simple atm, but I think this is a pretty neat idea for a puzzle game. Congrats for starting out.

  • Wade

PS Oh, I see you already added hints.

Thanks for telling me about the go to command. I really appreciate the advice.
And thanks for the suggestions for other escape games. I’ve played some, and I really like the ones with a simple premise but actually has a lot packed into it. I wanted to make something like that, but I think I made many things too vague this time.

As always, thanks for playing!