Sunless Sea and IFDB

So here’s something I’m wondering about: should we put Sunless Sea on the IFDB? In many ways, it is interactive fiction. In many ways, it is not. The fact that is closely linked to something that evidently is IF, Fallen London, seems to me a point in favour of including it. On the other hand, if Sunless Sea gets in, why not a text-heavy RPG like Planescape: Torment as well? The line between IF and RPG might get too vague to be useful, and I don’t think we want to have the “any game with text in it”-db.

Any thoughts?

why not indeed any graphical adventure game? Even mostly without text, games such as Machinarium, Limbo, Ico or Journey offered wonderful fictional worlds and touching non-verbal narrative. Certainly they deserve a tad lot more than all the clickable text being currently dumped there.

that said, no. I think IFDB should be for text-based games only.

and I don’t know Sunless Sea

It isn’t evident that Fallen London is IF…

never tested that. It requires an account…

Sunless Sea is IF in the same way that Mass Effect is a shooting game. Yes, it’s true, but it’s only half what the game is about (RPS famously calls Mass Effect a “Guns & Conversation” game). So do we count things that are half-IF as eligible for IFDB? Is inclusion in IFDB even supposed to be a standard of anything? Could you see voting Sunless Sea for a Xyzzy Award?

I would think no, as well. It’s the sort of game an IF player would appreciate, by all accounts; but it’s not IF any more than Uplink is IF.

I say yes: the boat is equivalent to moving an avatar, but all interaction is text which is dependent on choices you make. One might equate it to a really elaborate twine with music and graphics.

Really what we found over at MobyGames is that while once in a while people will put in the effort to document something that truly doesn’t belong, no questions needed, like a non-game-related piece of utility software, it’s fine to document border cases as unless you do so hugely extensively, the basic centre of the database remains the same. I see no problem with documenting Sunless Sea, Fallen London or even Planescape: Torment at the IFDB. (Also “fine by me”: Gone Home, Alter Ego, Activision’s Portal, System’s Twilight, Meanwhile, graphic adventures, visual novels, MU*s.)

Whoa there. Alter Ego, Activision’s Portal and Meanwhile are much closer to what we perceive as IF than some of the other things you mentioned. AE, P and M I’d definitely say have a place in IFDB.

I suppose the thing is, as you just put it, being extensive. If we start including graphic adventures… we have to include them all, don’t we? If Monkey Island is acceptable, then so much all the Sierra/LucasArts graphic adventures, plus all the myriad others. And then we have an IF/GADB. I think the problem is, if we start opening “exceptions”, it’s very hard to know when to stop.

…then again, the exception is already in place. Wasn’t there a year when someone submitted a graphic adventure game in the IFComp? It’s in the IFDB. Then again, it’s listed within the context of it having been IN the IFComp, so that’s the IF connection. Hmmmmm.*

EDIT - “Visual novels” and “text adventures”. Doesn’t the very name imply a distiction? I don’t want to positively argue for or against it, it’s just that I noticed this very second how the very names of these two things, that we’re talking about lumping together, imply two very different mediums. Just like “text adventures” and “graphic adventures”. Hmmmmm.*

  • “Hmmmmm.” means this is something I’d happily think about at leisure at a later date.

EDIT 2 - Common sense just kicked in. I suppose the question is, “when you look at/play Sunless Sea, does it strike you as IF? Does it strike you as Photopia, Savoir-Faire, Curses, Lost Pig, Anchorhead, Babel, et al?”. “Is it IF” is probably more of a gut-reaction yes/no/fringe answer. When we start to think too deeply about it, we probably lose the focus, and the answer starts veering wildly.

I’ve played over 100 hours of Sunless Sea and am active in the community. It’s not IF. There’s certainly a very strong IF-like component included, but that’s hardly the same thing – the sailing isn’t just something you do to move your avatar from region to region, it involves resource micromanagement, realtime combat, precision in terms of avoiding obstacles/navigating to light sources/evading enemies/controlling travel time, etc.

But probably it is not so helpful to just up and say yes or no without giving a personal definition of “IF”, which in this case means for me “text-based”. Sunless Sea heavily incorporates text, but as an equal partner alongside highly detailed animations, music, and video mechanics, not as a basis.

If I wanted an “all adventure games” database I wouldn’t be using ifdb. I think having a specialty is good. If I was wanting to pick random IF to play and hit upon Torment instead I’d be disappointed. (This is keeping in mind Torment is perhaps my all-time favorite game ever.)

Sunless Sea I might make an exception for simply due to the connection with something else I’d call IF (Fallen London). It’s more like Star Control 2 than regular IF, though.

See, I consider Fallen London IF. It’s choice-based and stat heavy with images and a map you use to move, but it’s text.

All Sunless Sea reductively does is enlarge the map and animate some nodes in real time. All encounters and interaction drop into a choice-based storylet. (I’m not bashing, it’s really impressive. ) The sailing could be done on a static map without changing the game significantly except for the real time sailing.

Kerkerkruip does basically the same thing.

Combat is an encounter that does not drop into a choice-based storylet.

HanonO, did you perhaps only play the early access before the combat was changed? It’s real time now, plus evading encounters in the first place and managing light/terror are all very much real time.

Oooh, nice one! Kerkerkruip is definitely fringe, but it feels closer to IF than NetHack, doesn’t it?

This veers into the murky seas of subjectivity, but I dunno that the presence of graphics and gamist elements would decide whether something is IF. To me, what characterizes IF is its focus on prose (in the written form) as a vital component of the experience. Lots of games contain text, but not all games use it as its primary means of telling the story. That doesn’t mean a game using a different medium to express itself (graphics, music, mood, game mechanics, whatever) would be poorer for it, but I think it’s a distinction worth noting.

tl;dr: remove the text from Sunless Sea and it would be unrecognizable. Strip the written descriptions from Fallen London and there’d be nothing left. That makes them IF in my book.

I would argue that text is a vital component of the storytelling in Transistor as well, but even less would I consider that IF. I feel that “text as vital component” provides for a sliding-scale kind of way of classifying things as “very IF-like”, “somewhat IF-like”, “hardly IF-like”, etc., which is certainly a valid way of approaching it and probably a better theoretical model; for the purpose of a binary >INCLUDE? (Y/N), though, it seems to me that a more black-and-white working definition is called for, whatever that definition might be.

The test I generally use is “Could you convert the entire game into text without losing anything from the gameplay?”

By that test, Fallen London counts as IF, but Sunless Sea does not, due to the real-time combat in Sunless Sea.

That’s generally my test too. But that would also exclude 80 Days, I think; the more I’ve written about that game, the more the map seems like a non-negotiable element of the design, in a way that’s not true for, say, Counterfeit Monkey or Lock & Key.

I feel like there’s a relevant distinction to be made between resemblance to IF, and inclusion of IF. Sunless Sea is basically Fallen London (A game that for purposes of this discussion I will consider IF) some 50% of the time; the other 50% of the time, though, it’s the overworld from Sid Meier’s Pirates. We could, for the sake of argument, make an IFDB for “The Ports of Sunless Sea”; if we define IF as a type of interaction matched to a type of storytelling, (Without getting into a specific definition), then Sunless Sea definitely includes that, it just partners it with a different type of interaction that is definitely not IF. This is very different from something like Transistor which is using text to tell its story but at no point enters a sort of IF mode.

Like, the text adventure homage/parody in Saints Row: The Third is definitely IF; and while I don’t think anyone is prepared to call that game IF, it’s definitely an experience that includes IF at one point.

Doesn’t that exclude things like the Magnetic Scrolls and Legend Entertainment games which (I may be misremembering) at some point lacked comprehensive room descriptions and relied on their illustrations?