A couple of years ago I started working on a game and then set it aside. I like the concept a lot, but I’m hesitant about putting any more effort into it. Here’s why: The finished game will simply be too damn large. Also shamelessly old-school. You know, lots of puzzles, all in pursuit of a grand quest to achieve something very silly. Some modern elements, too – reasonably well fleshed out characters. But it’s not a serious attempt to tell a serious story. Anti-serious, if anything. Mad, basically. This is a game with drug-addicted gerbils in it.
The trouble with writing a really large game is, what’s the point? Will anybody ever play it? Will I even be able to find any testers to bulldoze their way through it?
I’d love it if six people would tell me, “Please – write it!” Or even three people. If I do it right, it could be quite a fun game. Or it could just be a bit of terminal eccentricity, on the level of building a scale model of Chartres Cathedral in your back yard using scraps of tinfoil.
No, it can’t be split up into three separate games. It’s all one concept.
I’m a fan of Andy Phillips. Just please pay special attention to fairness and design… Realise that by the end, your players will be pretty exhausted, and in the beginning they’ll be floundering, looking to understand how the game’s internal logic works. Don’t save the hardest puzzles for the end, basically, and be wary of timers unless they have a good reason… I know this is all generic stuff that might be useful for ANY game, but large puzzlefests in particular can be swiftly killed by terminally fatiguing the player.
If you like the concept a lot, and it has to be that big to work, then you might have the willpower to make the game. …or you might not, because it’s not worth it.
I envision that the average number of people that will play any given IF, is about ten people. Is it worth spending your time and effort to entertain those ten people, instead of spending it on playing Lego Batman 2? If it is, then make the game.
Will people play your game that takes a week to complete? Maybe.
It depends on whether or not it’s interesting enough for them, and that’s up to your skill. If you make “Wallpainting - The Game”, you better have some mad prose skillz to back up the game concept, but if you make “Minecraft - The IF” people will just never stop.
I have an extremely short attention span when it comes to IF, but I’ll play anything containing Cthulhu mythos. I once played a long IF called something like “The King In Yellow”. …and also Anchorhead was fairly okay. There was some parts I hated about both, but as long as I see tentacles, all is forgiven. …so a good concept can go a long way.
…but you can’t spend months programming things just to please others. You have to please yourself first. If you like to program, do it. Don’t end up like Phil Fish, who just raged-quitted game development just because he heard that some random people didn’t like him. Expect that people will hate you, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised instead. If you can’t stand people hating you, then it’s not worth making the game. Make your beast, and let it loose upon the world. Watch it devour the children and eat the flesh of th-… Ehm. Yeah. Something like that anyway.
Andreas, I said this once, when we were trying to find a game you might enjoy, and in light of what you said just now I’ll say it again: Ecdysis. It’s lovecraftian, it’s got tentacles as far as I can remember, it’s short, it’s quality eerie stuff. I still think you’d like it.
Thanks, all, for the encouragement. I agree that ultimately any author has to please him/herself – it’s not about pleasing a vast audience, because there isn’t a vast audience for IF. I guess my concerns are, first, beta-testing, and second, the viability of old-school puzzly IF.
My experience with my last couple of large games was that my testers kind of pooped out toward the end. I didn’t get nearly the number of reports relating to the last half of the game that I did on the first half.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the more interesting new games are the ones that re-envision the IF experience in some way. (“Coloratura” is as good an example as any.) Heck, way back in '99, when I released “Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina,” reviewers commented that it was old-school. And this new game is explicitly a sequel to “Ballerina.” Goofier and larger, but with the same PC, the same setting (although the shopping center has been remodeled somewhat), and a closely related quest. My concern, then, is that a game along these lines might be greeted with a collective yawn.
But as Andreas noted, it’s really down to whether I do a good job on the design, writing, and coding. The question, “Will this be well received” is not one that anybody could answer in the abstract.
To follow up on zarf’s comment, my first parser-based IF game was Counterfit Monkey. As a new player, I’d love to play a game with similarly traditional concepts that isn’t cruel to casual players (like many other “old-school” games I’ve since tried and just could not get into).
I think you should stick with it for as long as working on it makes you happy. I have plenty of ideas for games that might not be very large, but would be a lot of work. I enjoy tinkering with them when I can in the hopes of playing them with my kids five years from now. I’ve had to learn to let go of the annoyance with myself for letting projects go unfinished for long stretches – it’s just the nature of hobbies in adulthood.
Thanks. That game was written in such a way as to be totally non-cruel. You can’t lose, and you can’t die. The solution to the next puzzle is always where you can find it.
My other large games (Lydia’s Heart, Flustered Duck, and Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina) are at least moderately cruel. If the player does something that makes the game unwinnable, either it will be immediately undoable for obvious reasons (usually “You have died.”), or, if you’re not dead, the output will say something like, “As you watch the gold key sink into the river of lava, you have a horrible feeling of loss and despair. Perhaps you should have held onto it.” Again, recommending an ‘undo.’ But it’s up to the player to read the output and notice the rather broad hint.
The author might accidentally neglect to do this at some crucial point, but we hope not.
Though ‘cruel’ might not be as comprehensive a word as I thought it was. Sympathetic, maybe? Essentially, if I enter (what I consider to be) reasonable commands, and they aren’t recognized by the parser, I lose patience very quickly. And I believe this short fuse is common among players new to IF. Just a thought if you are worried about your game not reaching a broad enough audience.