Learning about the monstrous size of Blue Lacuna, and seeing what a dedicated man Aaron Reed is, I swore that would one day at least play it.
…but it’s hard.
I tried once before, and I didn’t get further than waking up in my bed. I’m at that same exact moment now, and I actually saved once I woke up, before rage-quitting.
It’s not a giant bed bug blocking my path that I can’t get past. It’s the text.
It’s like a snowstorm of wellformed prose, telling me what to feel and think, and there’s a complicated dramatic story, and I have to choose whether I’m a homosexual or not, because we can’t have an pre-established character.
I didn’t read the text. I skimmed through it, fighting against the storm of words about feelings to reach something meaningful, something like a flowerpot that I could take, or an apple to promptly eat.
I suggest the following to IF creators:
Know that your players will have the attention span of a small child. For every sentence that doesn’t carry any meaning to solving the game, you are immediately boring. Everything that you describe has to be either directly relevant, or providing immediate flavour to other relevant things.
Less is more. Do not describe something that the player can already fill in with his own imagination. You don’t have to describe a river. We know what a river is. If you think it’s really important that we learn how the sun gleams in the water, it better be at least a clue to solve a sunbeam puzzle, because your scenery will always be inferior to the scenery that the player can imagine.
Keep it simple. Legends, prophecies, and complex powers, are all really cool, but again, are they necessary? Even claiming that “You are Tim, the janitor, and you’re on a lunch break.” will limit the players quest, character and motivation. What if we wanted to play Jim, the dreaded pirate, out to plunder and pillage? We can still eat apples and open chests all the same.
Don’t tell the player what to feel and think. If you want to conjure up feelings, do so with adjectives (scent/smell/odour/stench).
If I ever make it out of the Blue Lacuna cabin alive, I don’t expect to get far. I bet a lot of people liked Blue Lacuna, because it’s very good at doing what it’s doing, but it’s just not for me.
Text in Blue Lacuna is quite well proportioned at the beginning, actually. No more than 3 or 4 lines at a time. So I quite disagree with the OP on that. As to the four general points he made,
I think this is a sound rule of thumb. I don’t like reading long swathes of text on screen while expecting interaction. Long text (>150 words, give or take) to me brings up bad memories of interminable cut-scenes that have rarely anything to do with the gameplay.
Um, no. Not how fiction works on the brain, cognitively. The imagination can run wild much more intensely on a set of interesting, forcefully presented pieces of information than on a set of generic placeholders. “You see a river” is a generic placeholder. Dear would-be author, I don’t want to engage my imagination in making that river interesting all by myself, seeing as to how you obviously expect me to do more work than yourself. Fuhgeddaboutit.
Same as 2. I don’t want to go those extra 1000 miles in spinning a complex backstory for my character, when all the author has done is give me a blank slate and the options to open chests and eat apples. Might as well tell me at the outset “You’re a crowbar with a mouth.” if that’s all I’m going to be.
After 2. and 3. I don’t even think I’ll care enough to feel anything but irritation at the game so yeah, better not tell me at this point what I’m supposed to feel.
Also, a piece of advice: don’t make general points on how to make games NOT like Blue Lacuna and then conclude with “but yeah, it just wasn’t for me”.
I don’t want to start a Pudlo witchhunt or anything, but the similarities are cropping up.
Anyway, assuming this is legit: I found the prose in Blue Lacuna to be stellar and engaging. I am not a writer (or rather, I tried to be at several points, but it never really worked), I am not a literary critic, my reviews do not give specific advice on how to make a game “read” better. I’m just a guy that plays IF and has come to have a bloody high standard, necessary because of all the crap out there. I enjoyed Blue Lacuna immsensely, writing included.
EDIT - Also, it seriously looks like you’re overthinking the whole thing. For instance, the bit about “having to choose whether you’re homosexual”. The game just askes you two simple binary questions, you choose the one you like best and move on, end of story. No big deal unless you make it a big deal.
“PUDLO has been advancing the performance of waterproof concrete for over 130 years.
PUDLO is the complete, sustainable solution to creating waterproof, durable concrete.
From concept to hand-over, PUDLO is exclusively dedicated to the engineering and site inspection of membrane-free waterproof concrete assured by an industry-leading 20 year warranty (UK only).”
There’s no shame in hating waterproof concrete, but I refuse to see any similarities with it.
Oh, there’s a “Jacek Pudlo” connected to IF? Sounds like an interesting guy.
“I’ve had a little experience, on a newsgroup I’ve participated in over the years. The guy’s name (possibly his real name, or not) was Jacek Pudlo. He would start with a seemingly almost-sensible question, wait for you to respond to it, and then start stretching further into the territory of the bizarre. Sooner or later (and sometimes it was sooner) he would start slinging personal insults.”
Pretty much every other post I make is already in the territory of the bizarre. There’s no point in having an opinion unless it brings something new to the table. Granted people can choose to feel insulted by them, but that’s giving me too much credit as a sane person.
I guess some people prefer verbose IF and some people prefer brief IF. Please don’t hang me or anything. I’m too pretty for it.
Well, it’s the first question you get, and only one of two traits that is used to establish your character. Maybe it’s not an actual big deal as the IF progresses, but it sure seems like I could go on homosexual lovemaking adventures if I chose to. It’s like asking “Do you like trains?”. Why can’t we just establish that the character likes trains, possibly homosexually, and move on?
David Whyld, in all honesty, play Blue Lacuna. I may have my font size set to 12 instead of 10, but it takes Aaron Reed about half a page to ask me whether I’m a man or a woman. Then it takes another half of a page to ask me the personal question whether I - not the character - like people my own gender or not. Then it takes him a whole page to ask me whether, well, I want to treat this as a porn novel or not.
Yes, Aaron Reed has obviously written a very elegant piece of IF, but some people will have issues with this. It doesn’t mean that Blue Lacuna is crap. Not at all. It just means that I don’t think I can play it.
Andreas-> I’m sorry but saying a work of IF has “too much text” is like saying “this FPS has too much shooting”. I mean, yeah text-dumps should be avoided, but you’re playing a work of INTERACTIVE FICTION.
Do you have anything to contribute to the community besides complaints?
Well, contrary to common sense, to me an IF has never been about reading, but about “navigating a 3D world”, kind of like reading pop-up books. I liked Colossal Caves because it was “to the point”. It was about drawing maps and picking up items. I feel a childish joy in picking up apples and eating them, even if eating things don’t actually do anything, because it makes me feel alive in that world. The author describing things to me, makes me feel seated in a chair in front of a school teacher. It makes him more alive than me.
I dunno yet. Pointing out I7 bugs, maybe?
I like to complain.
The text before the man/woman choice and that before the hetero/gay choice amount to a grand total of 140 words. A third of a page. Broken up as it is in two, it’s 70 words/passage. If that exceeds your attention-span limit, you might well be beyond help. Or you simply didn’t like something else in the text and you misattribute your reaction to length and not the something else you didn’t like.
I liked playing Super Mario Brothers when I was a kid, because it was to the point. Now I’d rather play XCOM. (Damn you, Steam sale!) Anyway, that game is pretty ancient. There has been some innovations in how IF is written and played since its inception. And, yeah, if you don’t like reading, then IF might not be your thing.
Yes, as your font is smaller, for you it’s probably a third of a page. Would that third be about something relevant, I would gladly have read it, but instead it’s about swirly mists and other empty words. It’s about the player “being in nothing”. Why not simply state “Are you a man or a woman?”? Why feel a need to invent a dreamlike state for the player to be in, so that you can very carefully ask a question that you could just plainly ask before the game starts? I get the “artistry” of it, but I’m not the guy who wants to read about meaningless, pointless swirly mists. I don’t want to call such a beautiful prose bullshit, but to me, personally, it is.
Andreas, Words are words, no matter the size of the font. Also, paragraphs are paragraphs and the ones at the beginning are hardly formatted as walls of text.
So just drop the pretense that it’s amount of text that bothers you and try to talk about how the vagueness of the writing at the start bothers you; it makes a bit more sense, at least.
To this I’d say the same though. The vague dreamstate part is 140 words long. 140. It’s something you can read in 30 seconds, and that’s if you’re a slow reader. And by the way, I also do find the lexical generalities at the start of BL a bit too concentrated for my taste. But seriously, a whole rant and an online thread about 140 words?! Seriously?! Aptly named, however, though not exactly in the way you might have thought.
Because an IF game isn’t a survey, and shouldn’t read like one. Without pictures, the atmosphere and setting have to be created in words – that’s the medium of IF.
Because, in a story, there are such things as: setting, mood, tone, character, character arcs, and an arcing plot which you might not be fully aware of by looking at the opening screen. The swirling mists might have something to do with plot elements that are revealed later. And if not, then its about setting a tone or mood, which is how stories are told. Saying, “why not just come out and bluntly ask the player a question”, not only breaks the 4th wall, which has to be done for a good reason, but would look completely generic and lazy in application.
If it’s just that opening scene that is overly verbose, then I won’t feel as much dread about continuing to play Blue Lacuna.
…but it’s not about just one IF. Maybe it’s because I hate words in general. I have PTSD, which is basically a mental state of stress, and I noticed that since I got that, I can’t read books anymore, and that I somehow hate words. Words take time to read, and I don’t have time. I don’t get how everyone else have time, but I don’t. I like programming, because there every word has actual meaning. …so I read the intro to Blue Lacuna as while mentally going “Yes? Yes? Yes? Yes? So? And? Yes? Yes?” for 30 seconds.
I don’t actually hate IF as a medium. IF has potential for lots of things. It’s the reading I hate.