Six Silver Bullets

ifcomp2018-game
(Petter Sjölund) #1

Has anyone managed to get Six Silver Bullets (or indeed any Adrift 5 game) running on Mac with the Mono framework and the Linux Runner? It seems to crash Mono when I try. (Full crash report here.)

Otherwise I guess I’ll have to try to get my old Windows machine running again.

(Brian Rushton) #2

I don’t know, but on my PC windows defender said it detected a virus and wouldn’t let me play it.

#3

@craiglocke: False virus detections are very common with ADRIFT .exe files because they contain compressed data and decompression software. Did you try the BLORB version with the ADRIFT runner from http://www.adrift.co/download?
The latest runner was released in June, so most antivirus programs have figured out it is safe by now.

#4

I’m on PC and use Gargoyle (universal interpreter that can run Adrift games)
The .blorb wouldn’t run. Renamed it with .taf, still wouldn’t run. Ran the .exe and it ran, crashed, then automatically ran again.
Not trying again. Sorry.
EDIT: Just to see, I tried running it on my Android tablet in Fabularium, which is based on Gargoyle, and it worked fine there. The .glorb file, that is. No problems. Weird.

#5

Gargoyle only runs very OLD ADRIFT games, it does not run ADRIFT 5 games!

Here are step-by-step installation instructions for ADRIFT 5 on a windows PC:

  1. Go to http://www.adrift.co/download
  2. Download ADRIFT5Setup.zip
  3. Unzip, which should produce a single file called Setup.exe
  4. Run Setup.exe to install ADRIFT 5.0
  5. The interpreter is called Run500.exe, run it and open the BLORB file from its file menu.
  6. If it doesn’t work your computer may be missing v4 of the NET framework (see http://wiki.adrift.co/General_Setup for more info)

The Linux Mono version is called adrift-5.0.35.tar.gz and is on the same download page.

Fabularium 1.4.0 and later should work on android.

(Petter Sjölund) #6

I also tried installing the Adrift runner (and Mono) on Ubuntu 18.04.1, but I have not been able to find a version of the required Visual Basic 2005 runtime libraries that works (the one I found requires libmono-winforms2.0, which is not available on Ubuntu 18.04.1).

Trying to run adrift gives the attached error.
Skärmavbild 2018-10-02 kl. 13.20.38.png

(Brian Rushton) #7

Thanks I’ll try again!

#8

Hello everyone,
This is Theodidactus, the author of six silver bullets

It was a very, very, very difficult decision to submit as a .blorb or as a .blorb/.exe combo. I initially did the former, on the belief that it would be easier for people to run. Ultimately, I received so many responses that the .exe file flagged as malware that I decided to alter the submission to simply be a .blorb.

I will keep watching this thread to see how do-able it is to even run this game on a mac. Thank you for trying.

(Dan Fabulich) #9

The ADRIFT website claims that there’s an ADRIFT runner for web, which would make this game easy to play on any platform. Is that something you can do? Try that?

(Dan Fabulich) #10

The game’s blurb describes it as having “numerous controversial mechanics: Randomized combat, arbitrary death, players are encouraged not to savescum or undo actions.”

But the game’s randomization is much deeper than that. The game includes a completely randomized plot. It’s a spy game where the mission objectives and the agents themselves (who to trust/kill) are randomized. I would describe the whole thing as a roguelike (a “procedural death labyrinth”). As a result, a walkthrough is impossible. The game includes a 700-word walkthrough, but it’s more correct to call it a list of suggestions. After having read the walkthrough, you’ll still have no clear idea of what to do to win this game.

So, what makes a good PDL? Here are a few characteristics of a good PDL in my mind:

  • Strategic depth. Good PDLs are described as “harsh but fair,” meaning that you can learn more about the game each time you play and that your odds of success will improve with superior strategy. Better strategy should substantially mitigate the risk of randomness, if not eliminate the risk entirely. There should be multiple high-level strategic approaches to the game, and each strategic approach should have a lot of special-case situations.
  • Meaningful variety. Randomness alone doesn’t address the problem of variety. Pure randomness is just 10,000 bowls of plain oatmeal, with each oat being in a different position and each bowl essentially unique. emshort.blog/2016/09/21/bowls-o … eneration/ The variety has to matter.
  • Freedom. Good PDLs have a zillion things you can do and try. Often, this freedom enables emergent gameplay, and supports strategic depth.

I don’t think I played the game long enough to decide whether the game truly has strategic depth, but the walkthrough seems to take pride in describing the game as “unfair.” The question of whether to TRUST an agent can’t be determined in advance; the walkthrough offers no strategic suggestions for mitigating that.

Being “harsh but fair” is what makes “strategic depth” a puzzle worth solving.

As for meaningful variety, the game kicks off with amnesia, which prevents the player from having any connection to the randomized plot. As a PDL, this game is asking me to devote hours and hours of my life into figuring out how to develop an extremely detailed battle plan, robust against any randomized plot. But why? Why is this game worth that much effort?

And then there’s freedom. Freedom is an area where parser IF games can really shine, but developing the game in ADRIFT really limits what the parser can do. (Not to mention the fact that it renders the game unplayable on non-Windows platforms.)

Seven playtesters are credited, but did they all win this “unfair” game? Did they all have fun?

(Herr M.) #11

II do not know about them, but I do have fun playing it. :wink: I have not finished it yet either, but here are some thoughts so far:

While it is true that there are some random death events, you can still gather a lot of information that can be useful in your next run. And most of it seems to help circumventing the randomness.

E.g. once you know the code for the safe it is always the same, and the names of the agents are not random too. The latter is very important in gaining extra information and preventing a fight with them. I also think it is part of the narrative that you have to die, and that there is a kind of Groundhog day scenario going on, but maybe I am reading too much into the details. Maybe I am also hoping for too much when I think that the mission statement on the note is not the actual goal of the game, but that you have to try to break free somehow.

Anyway I get some good agent movie vibes from the game.

And yes the parser is a bit picky at times and takes some getting used to it, but once you do it works alright.

#12

I am glad to see some responses to this game. I think Herr M.'s assessment is spot on. This game was designed to be very “long” and have a lot of replay value. I am hoping some people untangle its deeper secrets…

#13

You know, it’s comments like these that make the whole wretched design process worth it.
:slight_smile:

(Dan Fabulich) #14

I think it’s likely that I judged this game too quickly. It’s possible that I’ve entirely misjudged the game, but I’m still not convinced that I’ve missed my mark.

Ironically, I think it was the walkthrough that lead me to judge the game too early. The IFComp website links to it under a link labeled “Walkthrough,” and it starts with a header saying that it’s a “list of hints” and not a walkthrough. I had perhaps incorrectly assumed that this walkthrough contained all of the most important hints for winning the game. If that were true, if this 700-word list of hints were all that this game has to teach, then the game must lack strategic depth.

In particular, if the walkthrough describes its random elements as “unfair,” instead of “harsh but fair,” and didn’t even imply that there’s a way to mitigate the unfairness, I’d assumed that the walkthrough was telling me “there is no puzzle to solve; this game just sucks.”

Still, I fundamentally lack faith in this game, and I’m not going to invest more time to figure out whether the game is secretly good.

All of the information I have about this game is telling me that this game has bad puzzles, puzzles that the author calls “hard” but which in fact just require you to read the author’s mind. Games where you read the author’s mind aren’t actually “hard” puzzles. They are, in fact, bad puzzles.

A teasing half-assed walkthrough that claims “oh if only you invest dozens of hours in this game, maybe you’ll solve its ultra hard puzzles” only supports my suspicion that there’s nothing in this game worth playing for.

In Emily Short’s terms, xyzzyawards.org/?p=386 the author claims that the game has Extent, but I don’t see it. I don’t think it “stays fresh throughout.” The author claims that the game is Explorable, but I don’t see it. I don’t think its puzzle “responds well to failed attempts at a solution.” And I’m not willing to bore myself trying to check whether there’s something non-boring to slog through.

This game requires the player to make a huge leap of faith. (In my case, it requires me to launch a Windows VM to play it.) I’m not going to make that leap until I have clear evidence that it’s worth it. When the author calls the game “hard” and “unfair” it is evidence to the contrary.

I try hard to make sure that my reviews, even (especially) my negative reviews, are constructive. In this case, I have four construction suggestions.

  1. Make this game run on the web. I’m guessing it stands a good chance of receiving the fewest reviews of any game in the comp. I think at least 70% of that is due to technical issues with launching ADRIFT games on non-Windows platforms.

  2. Rewrite all of the descriptions this game uses to describe itself, in the blurb, in the intro, and in the walkthrough. Do not describe this game as “unfair” or “controversial.” Describe it as “harsh, but fair.” Claim that the game has “strategic depth.” Tell players why it’s worth investing hours playing this game, not why they’ll probably hate it.

  3. Rewrite the walkthrough. Specifically, make the walkthrough much, much longer. Let the walkthrough show that this game has strategic depth. Let the walkthrough show that the solutions to the puzzles make sense in retrospect. Let the walkthrough show that a well-educated player can reliably win. Leave no final unspoiled challenges. Don’t be cute here.

  4. Add a non-randomized macguffin at the start of the game that can compel the player’s curiosity. Instead of starting with amnesia, start with something at stake, something the player cares about that spans across restarts. It’s OK if it’s a red herring, even. If the bigger picture turns out to be more interesting than the macguffin, so much the better. But don’t force me to trust that this game will make me care about it when I uncover its amazing secrets. Make me care about this game on the first page.

#15

I had the ADRIFT 5.0 runner set up already, so why not try another ADRIFT game?

So this one’s definitely got a concept. It’s a cloak-and-dagger spy game. You are SILVER AGENT. Wiped memories, a gun. Six bullets. And a CITY of color-coded spies out there. Some of 'em might be willing to help, many more are out to kill you. And there’s a shadowy ORGANIZATION in the background…

What you’re actually doing is moving around locales in the city. The Skyscraper, The Bar, The Alley, The Nightclub. Not a lot of descriptions in all of them, but there are some seemingly random encounters as you explore. And you can choose various actions to take. Do you TRUST the GREEN AGENT, THREATEN them, KILL them? SNEAK past the guard, or BRIBE them? INFILTRATE, or IGNORE The Mansion? This ends up feeling almost choice-based, in a way, because all the actions at each place is listed for you. Some minor issues with not knowing whether I was inside or outside of buildings, or some commands not being understood even following exact syntax. The ADRIFT auto-map helps a lot (I had to turn it on under Window). There are places to hide, and you’ll find some agents and locations will be able to give you more information, about who to trust maybe, or what secrets some locations might offer. So there are a lot of cool ideas here.

Conceptually then, it feels like it should be a limited information game, where you use deductive reasoning based off of incomplete data as you move around the city. In practice, it can feel a bit random, because the info isn’t sequentially given to you. You might not have found any info on an agent you’re facing down, so you’ll be told that they’re a good fighter, that they seem to be looking for someone, but you’re just rolling the dice a bit beyond that, sometimes literally, because KILLing them or SNEAKing past have percentage chances to fail. If you do find someone willing to talk to you, a lot of the questions don’t seem to be based on stuff you already know, so you’re a lot of the time choosing from a bunch of questions on places and agents you haven’t even encountered yet, which also sort of doesn’t jibe with the whole notion of this being about info-gathering. Any encounter that goes awry can end with your death, or their’s. Some stuff is randomized, but the map, and what each location offers, seems to be set, and it seems like some of the agents are stationed at specific spots as well, and that knowledge definitely helps a lot on subsequent playthroughs. I never did get to the point where I felt like I could enact much of a strategy for most encounters, though (and knowing some useful places to visit first doesn’t feel necessarily strategic). It seems like it’d be difficult to finish without at least playing through a couple times to get a layout of the city and the story, at which point both the amnesia angle and the do-or-die one I feel would get diluted?

The prose definitely goes full-bore noir, and it hits it well overall, although sometimes there’s an overloading of the terse sentence fragments, and the rhythm gets a bit off as a result. There was one line like “this is a nightmare” which most stood out as not fitting in with the curt, clipped delivery of the rest of the text. But when people start talking, it feels conspiratorial, it feels like there’s just a glimpse of a web being untangled in front of you, and that does sell a lot of this concept to me.

Overall, then? Tone works: it feels like a shadowy, oppressive city. Paranoia sets in. You second guess. The pieces of info you do get, really do feel like meaningful pieces of a larger puzzle, the only issue being the puzzle itself is maybe a bit too large, especially when so many of the pieces you flip over are landmines (ah, metaphor breaking down, but you get the idea…). I dunno, there are gameplay choices here that seem really at odds with each other, but the pieces of lore are actually pretty enticing, and I like quite a bit of what this is going for. If the setting sounds interesting, maybe give this a try at least.

So I wrote most of the above before reading dfabulich’s review. The 10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal problem seems mostly aimed at describing same-y, meaningless randomness. The randomness in Six Silver Bullets actually seems very meaningful overall, in a way that severely impacts your run-through, while still not being something the player can always seem to play around (the mechanical connection). I played through a third time, quickly, just now, and for example, there’s an agent right outside the hotel room when you wake up, and it turns out they’re random too. First playthrough, I died very quickly to them immediately, did UNDO, then had to shoot them. Nothing on their body. Second playthrough, I avoided them. Last one, they were friendly, so they actually gave me A LOT of background, then an item. Starting off the game, you can get a lot of info immediately, or none, or an immediate game over. So… if the randomness of the results of these encounters were actually a bit more same-y – more standardised, less all-or-nothing – I think, maybe, it’d feel more like I was making progress as I played, and less like I was wandering around the city gathering as much as possible for a “serious” future run before my luck (and bullets) ran out? Thinking about this more, I think I was treating this more like a story where I was very much trying to keep alive, and maybe instead this actually should be treated fully as a roguelike/Varicella?

#16

If it helps discussion, I didn’t read the walkthrough (or the blurb, all that closely).

(Dan Fabulich) #17

I investigated further the ADRIFT situation as regards web compatibility; it’s a mess. The play.adrift.co website is down; I think it’s been down for at least two years. There’s a secret download link for the WebRunner, but it’s a Windows-only server-side web framework. It requires ASP.NET for IIS on Windows.

I did what I could and filed a pull request to update the ADRIFT documentation on the IFComp website. github.com/iftechfoundation/ifcomp/pull/155 Feedback welcome.

IMO, ADRIFT is now in desperate need of maintenance. For years, ADRIFT has been a red-headed stepchild in the IF community; I think many of the criticisms of ADRIFT as an IF development system have been overblown. But say what you will about ADRIFT, somebody has to maintain it.

But the website offers a WebRunner that doesn’t work, and a Linux/Mono runner that doesn’t work. ADRIFT builds .exe files for Windows that don’t work, because Windows will flag them as malware. ADRIFT also builds .blorb files, but Gargoyle and Lectrote will dutifully try to open them and then fail to run with an unhelpful error message. (Lectrote says “Could not recognize game file.” Gargoyle says “Could not load Blorb file.” They make it look like it’s the author’s fault for shipping a “broken” blorb.)

I bear no ill will toward ADRIFT. I hope that somebody can maintain it for the sake of its community, and for the many delightful games that ADRIFT developers have made over the years. But until that day comes, building games on an unmaintained IF platform seems like a bad idea to me.

(Herr M.) #18

I think I found mistake in one of the riddles. If you look up something golden in the library:

[poe-2-24] = ‘hale’ should be [poe-2-124] = ‘precaution’ instead.

Nothing serious, but it had me stumped for a while.

Now back to the game…

#19

Oh dear,
Herr M. I can confirm that your correction is accurate. Furthermore, I cannot account for exactly how that typographic error entered the game because I took several precautions to make sure that exactly this sort of error did not occur.

A thousand apologies, though, and thanks for identifying this problem which will allow me to improve the game.

(Herr M.) #20

I just finished the game and contrary to some of the impressions you might get by the walkthrough or the description the game does NOT purely rely on random luck, nor have you got to guess the author’s mind with some obscure puzzles.

Yes, there are random elements, and at some rare times random deaths. Both of them have an actual reason and suit the story as well as the game rather well. And especially the deaths are no real problem because you can always undo and chose another action. And after a while you will know what you are doing and be able to avoid them. You will not be able to finish it without dying, but you will gain some useful information in almost any try.

And yes, the puzzles take some thinking, but I would not call them unfair.

The only gripe would be the parser which can be stubborn at times.

If you can live with those things you are in for a rather elaborate game with a clever story with some nice twists, which suits the genre really fine. And it certainly has ambition!