On paper, Steal 10 Treasures is kind of a super weird idea. I hope I can explain my (somewhat deranged) thought process.
My original idea for ParserComp this year was to make a very sad game about a little boy who dies in a hospital. I grew increasingly depressed as I wrote it, so about a week I scratched the whole concept and started over. I wanted to write something comforting, like cozy pajamas at home, after my first idea.
This led me to think a lot about what makes games comforting. I thought back to the old text adventures I played back in the 80’s. These old games got me into attempting to write my own in BASIC, which I suspect is how a lot of us learned to code in the first place.
This in turn made me ask questions like: “What is a parser?” In the old days, in BASIC, we did simple parsers by doing very primitive string comparisons. This meant my old games would only accept a few simple commands, and couldn’t do anything like the Infocom parsers.
But that was ok, right? Common Interactive Fiction doesn’t really take English commands. It accepts commands the way Colossal Cave did. Nobody in the real world talks like TAKE KEY or LIGHT FLA. Playing these games requires learning how to communicate to the parser to make it do what you want.
This in turn made me think about the Freestyle side of Parsercomp. What if we could enable new kinds of puzzles by changing how the player interacts with the game? Parsers typically accept shortened versions of commands, like X instead of EXAMINE or N instead of NORTH. I thought it would be really cool to write a kind of parser that would figure out what you wanted to do with just one key. This would maybe knock experienced players off balance.
S1t attempts to channel what I loved about text adventures from the 80’s into this format. It’s a castle crawl, which is very familiar to old school adventurers like myself, and a treasure hunt. It’s also a very loose collection of puzzles. There’s plenty of goofy jokes. In old games I like the ability to do off-the-wall stuff, like pushing the button in the Shorts Reverser room, or licking the Murderous Invisible Barbershop Quartet. This doesn’t necessarily solve any puzzles, but sends a little message to the player: relax, we’re having fun. There’s no agenda, no attempt to remind you of the grimness of the real world.
The game also attempts to keep the puzzles from being too difficult. I think this is how adventure puzzles end up with moon logic—we want to keep puzzles from becoming too easy, so we tend to make them ridiculous. To me, adventure puzzles are really about observing the world you’ve put the player in and coming to understand how it works. This is the reason S1t sometimes gives the player clues when you die. Hopefully, the player would come away thinking: ok, I’ve lost, but death is a slap on the wrist, and I’ve learned something.
Some have asked: why 10 treasures? The old Scott Adams games usually had 12 or 13. In truth, some of the treasures and puzzles had to be cut for time. It was more important to have a finished product rather than overstuffing it with glitchy content. Now that the comp is done, I might address some of the bugs players found during the comp (thank you bug reporters!) I was toying with releasing a “More Content” edition with more rooms and puzzles, but at this point, I’m already thinking about the next game.
I knew the soundtrack wouldn’t be a big hit with everybody, but wanted to use the power of music to deepen the atmosphere. This is that kind of game you’d boot up on an early home computer equipped with an noisy floppy drive, or, for extra points, cassette tapes. Maybe you typed it by hand into BASIC, line by line, from a magazine. The program loads—slowly—while you grab a hot tasty beverage, curl up with a furry friend, and enjoy the quiet patter of rain outside.
It was a joy for me to be a part of ParserComp this year. Thank you to everybody who made the competition possible, and thanks to my fellow authors who submitted great games.
And most of all, thanks to the players. Thank you for playing my silly little game!